August 17, 2019

The Department of Education – Do We Need It?

Government EducationI just finished reading an interesting article in the latest edition of Imprimis from Hillsdale College. The article, “Do We Need the Department of Education”, Charles Murray discussed exactly that question.

At this point in my life I think one of the roles that government should play is in the establishment of standards for what it means to be educated. Sadly, I think there’s far too much conversation related to the “how do we educate” instead of what it means to be “educated”. I believe the Department of Education should fulfill this role, but their current structure and thinking should be completely gutted to accomplish that task.

I didn’t realize before reading this article that the Department of Education didn’t even exist in its current form until 1980. But, that’s not to say the government hasn’t been involved in education up to that point. The first full scale involvement came from The National Defense Education Act of 1958 which was established after the Russians beat us to space with Sputnik. It was determined that we didn’t have enough interest in math and science in our classrooms and something should be done. Perhaps a very valid point, but could have been achieved by other means?

What do you think? Do you agree with me that there should be some government managed standards of what it means to be educated, but that the execution of fulfilling that task can be left open for individuals to decide for themselves? Whether that be provided by public schools, charter schools, private schools or home schools?

This could lead into a debate on the value of standardized tests, but I believe that there is importance in establishing baselines so that transitions between the different forms of schools mentioned above can be effectively managed. I’m interested in hearing what everyone else thinks.


About Homeschool Daddy

My wife and I have been homeschooling our two children since 2010. I setup this site to help organize some thoughts and ideas that I've had on homeschooling, education and parenting in general. Hopefully you'll find something that piques your interest and I encourage you to share a little bit of your own opinions in the comments on my posts. If you have questions related to the web and technology and how they may help your homeschooling efforts, just let me know. You can find out more about me on my Google+ Profile Page


  1. Jason,

    I’ll be the first one to comment and see if it starts any discussion. While I agree that an organization (private school, charter school, college, school district, etc.) should be allowed to have standards, I do not believe the government should be allowed to dictate the standards. While on the surface government standards can create efficiencies like the ones you have stated, it opens the door for what we have today (what I believe is a very corrupt system).

    God has clearly given parents the responsibility for the education of their children. I believe this means that they are responsible for the how and what of a child’s education. When the choice for a parent of how and what to educate is removed then you have a situation that goes against biblical teaching and therefore is not lawful. When the standard is reduced in scope of application, the parents are more likely to have the freedom to decide the how and what of their child’s education. This still leaves the door open for all of the organizations adopting the same standard. If that happens and parents do not have an option, they always have the choice to home school and fulfill their biblical responsibilities.

    The statement “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely” comes to mind when I think of the Department of Education. There are too many good intentions that turn to agendas by powerful people. If we have this set from the very top then there is no freedom for parents to choose what is best for their family. The removal of Jesus from the schools is one very obvious example of this issue. Another obvious example is the teaching of homosexual acceptance.

    Let’s use reading as an example. Having a standard that everyone needs to know how to read is not necessarily a bad thing, although some may argue that God may have a plan for some that doesn’t include reading and therefore not a necessity for those people (special needs included). Having a standard that says everyone needs to know how to read by a certain age is not a good thing. This creates what is called a “conveyor belt” education. (A Thomas Jefferson Education This book is a great read; take from it what you will.

    There is a lot more that I could write but this is enough to noodle on for now.

  2. Shawn, thank your for sharing your thoughts. I agree that in almost any situation there will be special circumstances and exclusions. However, I still believe that educational standards and minimum requirements should be established. I agree the current system is very broken, but I still believe that if one person says they have “Level X” of education, then if someone else says they have “Level X” education, we be able to draw some conclusions about what that means.

    I’ll use the existing example of GED, high school diploma, undergraduate degree, masters, doctorate. All of these programs internal specifications can be very different across each school, but if you say you have a “Masters” degree, it is immediately understood that you’ve completed the steps to get to that point at least (HS diploma, undergraduate degree).

    I believe there needs to be much more discussion inclusive of the entire education community of what it means to be educated. I would agree that these standards probably don’t always fit to be tied closely with a person’s age. But I believe establishing fairly generic baselines of understanding for each level, as we have with “grade levels” now is beneficial to everyone.

    I agree that the government hasn’t done a good job with much of anything, but I believe that’s the fault of the people to some degree. We’ve let it get this way. I believe if we make the government smaller, and tightly focus what we think they should be responsible for and hold them accountable to it. It would work. At least FAR better than it’s working now.

  3. Jason, Sorry for the delay in my response. It has been quite crazy around here. I think I see your point but what is the end goal for having these standards?

  4. I just think it’s important to know that if you and I both have a fourth grader, we know that there should be a minimum level of education and understanding that we can both be assured we have taught our child too. Could your “4th grader” be working at a 5th or 6th grade level? Of course! But we know that they have at least achieved the minimum standards of classification for being educated at a 4th grade level.

    If I have taught my 8th grader to understand, learn and comprehend at the level of a high school graduate, I would like there to be some type of standard that I could used as proof that they’ve reached this level and could theoretically enter college. This doesn’t take into account the question of are they ready for college on a maturity or age level, but at least educationally, they’ve achieved the same level of education as other high school graduates and that their level of education couldn’t be argued.

    I also don’t believe that homeschooling is the answer for everyone. Therefore we will have public schools. I believe a nationwide agreement on standards is important for this reason as well. Let’s say you’ve been living in Florida and have had your child just finish their 4th grade year and are ready for 5th grade. You now decide to move to Indiana.

    What’s the proof that the level of understanding and achievement for a student that just finished 4th grade in Florida is the same as that of a 4th grader in Indiana? Perhaps a 4th grader in Florida is actually at the same level as 5th graders in Indiana and therefore your son should “start” school in Indiana in 6th grade?. Should your child be forced into the 5th grad class in Indiana, even though he’s learning at the 6th grader’s level? I believe there should be some sort of testing or aptitude assessment that your child could take that would allow him to enter 6th grade in Indiana and technically “skip” 5th grade.

    If that is the case, then what’s the problem with Indiana and Florida? Why are the standards for being educated at the 4th grade level the same for both states and agreed upon across the nation for all states?

  5. Jason, are you a Christian?

  6. No, no, no, no and nooooooooooooo.

    The Department of Education is not only unneeded, it is solely big government bureaucracy and red tape, and oh yeah, unconstitutional. Our Constitution does not allocate power to the federal government to control education. The liberals like use the “general welfare” clause to include the education of children. Power in any right regarding education is allocated to the states, where the money is actually *spent.* That would be constitutional. The DOE is also the result of the unionization of teachers.

    As it currently stands, we spend approximately $25,000 *per student* in federal dollars. Approximately 90% – 90%!! – of money from the DOE is actually sent from states, to the DOE, and then back to the states. Huh??? It makes NO sense. Inefficient and completely ridiculous.

    But then, well meaning people who are worried about education worry about students who will be left behind, who will not be “educated” properly by being able to pass tests. I recently met a couple who have a son with many learning difficulties. He could not read until he was 12. Twelve years old. Now, you tell me – what would the school say about that? But, once he was able to read, he did it very well. He is a terrific reader – now. Developmentally, he wasn’t there. For the sole fact that he was, thank God, homeschooled, he was able to learn at his own pace. His parents knew he would get there. Did you know that I have a brother with a high school diploma who is illiterate? My nephew is special needs and is a year or two behind his reading level. Guess what – they won’t hold him back. Every child deserving a chance has equated to every child should pass – no matter what. My sister is fighting a very difficult battle right now in one of the best school systems in the state.

    The problem with standards is just what you said – you are assuming that every 4th grader *should* be able to do the same things. Not true. Also, the difference in the state issue happens with everything in life from laws to taxes because of the laws of this country, so it should be no different with education. And that is just the beginning of an authority issue. Sure, not every family will homeschool, but if a family chooses to keep that God-given authority over their children, so be it – the federal government should have NO say. There are many, many, MANY well-meaning people who would have told the parents of a 12-year-old boy who could not read that they were abusing him in some way or not helping him perform to the best of his ability. But I would venture to say that most of the time, God-fearing, true Christian parents know what is best for their children – not the government. If there are to be public schools, the authority should be in the local governments, which would be more efficient and constitutional.

    These are just a few reasons of many why the Federal DOE should be absolutely dismantled and abolished. And that is just the starting point. We as Christians have been taught an entirely wrong view of authority and education. I’m still learning myself! I encourage you to do some more research and prayer over this issue. It is constantly changing our lives. 🙂

  7. Lori, yes I am.

    Heidi, I’m not saying everyone should be forced to measure up to the standards. This could be done through a variety of methods, the simplest of which would to just abstain from participating. I’m just saying, and apparently not clear enough, there should be some kind of agreed upon standard at a federal level that any one and any system could use as a standard line of assessment.

    Let’s say I want to check my son’s progress after homeschooling him for 2 years. “Technically” he’d be going into 7th grade, but let’s say I wanted to test him against an 8th grade level. I would like a system available to be able to do that. If in your case, your friends wanted to assess their child at a 3rd grade level, regardless of his age, I think there should be some kind of system in place to help with that.

  8. So, you are saying there should be a standard, but not an enforceable one?

  9. Either way, though, I still disagree. 🙂 You are placing the authority to judge that in someone else’s hands. There are plenty of ways to judge that not on a federal level.

    • Yes, basically I’m saying there should be a standard, but there’s no enforcement or regulation that you have to meet the standard at a given age or development milestone. My reasons for it being at the federal level is that because the borders of state lines don’t really mean what they used to in culture or commerce, the standard should be set at a higher level that what individual states may agree upon. My thought behind this is that I don’t want there to be a giant disconnect between what it means to be “educated” at an 8th grade level in California compared to what it means for someone in Connecticut.

      The reason I put quotes around “educated” is that I still believe there’s no a coherent agreement about what it means for someone to even be educated in this country.

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