It should be noted that the Protestant participation in the movement was conditional. Indeed, the organized Protestants of Massachusetts spelled out those conditions in a report issued in 1849 that made it quite clear that if they found that the experiment of public education in any way had a negative effect on the students’ religious beliefs, they would withdraw their support. They wrote:
The benefits of this system, in offering instruction to all, are so many and so great that its religious deficiencies — especially since they can be otherwise supplied, do not seem to be a sufficient reason for abandoning it, and adopting in place of it, a system of denominational parochial schools....
If after a full and faithful experiment, it should at last be seen that fidelity to the religious interests of our children forbids a further patronage of the system, we can unite with the Evangelical Christians in the establishment of private schools, in which more full doctrinal religious instruction may be possible.
But, until we are forced to this result, it seems to us desirable that the religious community do all in their power to give an opportunity for a full and fair experiment of the existing system, including not only the common schools, but also the Normal Schools and the Board of Education.
The Harvard Unitarians succeeded in getting Calvinism out of the public schools, but readings from the Bible continued to be used at school assemblies well into the 20th century. The Protestants’ fear of the Catholics merely forced the latter to create their own parochial school system, which turned Catholic children into well-educated, loyal Americans. But the true winners were the socialists, who persisted in pushing their programs, which finally became known as Progressive Education, led by John Dewey, which now dominates everything that goes on in the public schools. The socialists also had the help of the organized teachers’ unions which were taken over by the Progressives and turned into a battering ram to smash through the steel doors of the U.S. Treasury. At the beginning, the Progressives had the help of the great private foundations to finance their experiments in the new socialist curriculum. But in order to implement all of this in the nation’s public schools, they needed billions of dollars, which only the federal government could supply.
The National Education Association was founded in 1857 by individuals who had worked hard to promote the public-school movement, and they called for a Cabinet level department of education at their first convention. But Congress was not moved. Even though a Department of Education was created 10 years later, in 1867, it was soon demoted into a relatively minor bureau in the Department of the Interior. In 1939, the bureau was transferred to the Federal Security Agency where it became the Office of Education. In 1953, the Federal Security Agency was upgraded to Cabinet-level status as the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
In other words, congressional resistance to federal aid to education was so strong that it took the sweeping victory of the Democrats in 1965 with the election of Lyndon Johnson to finally empower the liberals with the political power to give the National Education Association what it wanted: a key to the U.S. Treasury via the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The liberals then enacted all of the programs of the Great Society that would put America on the high road to socialism.
No sooner was the ESEA of 1965 enacted than the billions began to flow into the public education system. From 1966 to 1986, a 20-year period, $49,745,142,900 was pumped into Title 1 alone, a program for the Education of Disadvantaged children. By 1999, that sum was up to $118-billion. The program was supposed to provide “compensatory education” for the economically and socially deprived, the minority poor. Its goal was to help the inner-city poor reach the same level of academic achievement as those living in the affluent suburbs. But even though the program has been a failure, it is still being funded. In 2007, it was appropriated $25-billion!
So who gets the money? There are 50,000 local Title 1 directors, plus 50,000 assistant local directors, plus thousands of school aides and teacher assistants. In all, Title 1 has financed over 132,000 classroom positions, and the rate of failure among minority students is as high as ever.
In 1979, President Carter gave the educators what they had wanted since 1857, a Cabinet-level Department of Education. It was payback for the support Carter had received from the teachers’ unions. Unfortunately, many Republicans went along with creating the new department. Ron Paul was one Republican who had the courage to stand up and oppose this wholesale intrusion of the federal government in education.
The Carter administration added many new federal education programs at great expense to the taxpayer. From 1979 to 1986, Pell Grants were funded with over $22-billion; the Guaranteed Student Loan Program received over $20-billion; Vocational Rehabilitation Grants received over $9-billion; the Work Study Program, whatever that is, received over $4-billion. In all, in 1986 there were 113 federal education programs.
In 1979, the Office of Education had 3,000 employees and an annual budget of $12 billion. When it became the Department of Education, Congress appropriated an annual budget of $14.2 billion and its staff grew to 17,000 employees.
To confirm the intention of Republicans to continue supporting the ED (Department of Education), President George W. Bush, on March 23, 2007, signed into law H.R. 584, designating the ED Headquarters building as the Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building. Bush also joined hands with Ted Kennedy to sponsor No Child Left Behind, a reauthorization of the ESEA of 1965.
But it is now time for Republican conservatives to end this shameful charade of federal governance and control of education, a system that doesn’t educate, but which costs the taxpayers billions of dollars for the benefit of the Progressives.
The ED is now involved in so many grant programs that it takes over 300 pages to list them all. They include such programs as Adult Education, National Leadership Activities, American Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities, Career and Technical Education Grants to Native Americans and Alaska Natives, Charter Schools Program, English Language Acquisition State Grants, Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad Fellowships, Grants for Access and Persistence Program, Grants for School-Based Student Drug Testing, Grants to Reduce Alcohol Abuse, Historically Black College and University Capital Funding Program, Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants, Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers Program, Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program, Partnerships in Character Education, Promise Neighborhoods, Ready-to-Teach Grant Program, Regional Educational Laboratories, Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities, and many, many more.
Should we be borrowing money from the Chinese to pay for all of these grant programs? In many respects, Congress resembles the soft-headed rich uncle who can’t help passing out dollars to any cause that sounds worthwhile. But now he has to borrow the money, since he’s run out of his own. The election in November will determine whether or not Americans are willing to bite the bullet and put a stop to this endless gravy train. That would, indeed, be a revolution.
Should the Republicans win the presidency in November 2012, they will be forced to confront the reality of our near bankruptcy. The candidates all seem to be unanimous in their intention to close down the Department of Education. But the teachers’ unions, the liberal media, the Democrats, the socialists, and even liberal Republicans will raise such a vociferous opposition to such a move that it will really test the conviction and will of the conservatives. But conservatives must argue that education is best served on the local level, by the states and municipalities. The federal government is no longer capable of accepting a burden it should have never taken on in the first place. If there are to be any education grants, they should come from private foundations.