Paul Galvin

Yesterday, many of the local benefits to flow from the elimination of the public schools were outlined. But eliminating public schooling, an institution not extant at the country’s founding, would have national implications extending well beyond the boundaries of any one state. Chief beneficiaries would be an overall strengthening, and rehabilitation, of the American federal system and an increase in individual liberty.

Freedom for Federalism. Some of us have actually read the U.S. Constitution. Readers may know the document I mean, the written one, the one containing the set of behavioral limitations placed upon the created government. Not the imagined version penned with invisible ink whose words and meaning are discernible only by elites with special glasses. (Pointedly many of these elites so-called have either been elected or appointed and thus have been required by the written Constitution’s Article VI to take an oath “to support this Constitution,” meaning, because of the Framers’ deliberate use of the definite article “this,” the one visibly available to the rest of us.(*)) When reading that Constitution, we know that the created federal government has no authority to legislate on any matter dealing with education. On this point we have Mr. Madison in our corner. “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined [(**)]. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” ~ Federalist #45.

(*) In addition to Clause 3 of Article VI (the Oath/Affirmation Clause), the phrase “this Constitution” appears in 11 other provisions of the Framers’ 1787 document, demonstrating unequivocally that the Framers’ use of the definite article “this” in pointing at the words of their written document was intentional, not inadvertent.

(**) We know precisely what those few and defined powers are because they are listed – in writing – in the document itself. Education is not on the list.

This understanding undergirds the 9th and 10th Amendments. “You may go this far, but no farther.” Despite these clear restrictions, we have today a huge federal superstructure called the U.S. Department of Education(!) which intrudes not only into K-12 education but also into the collegiate system. Since no provision in the Constitution authorizes federal involvement in education (among countless other federal intrusions), this can only be the result of government officials being unfaithful to their voluntarily-taken oaths to “this Constitution,” acting without the consent of the people, compounded by the people’s own failure to appreciate the genius of the American constitutional system: by restricting governmental power, individual freedoms are maximized.

There is nothing inherently American about a top-down, one-size-fits-all public school system, a system drawn from the authoritarian Prussian model (promoted circa 1840s by Horace Mann, a Massachusetts liberal, among others). Hearthside teaching aka home schools, private tutoring, and small community-based private schools (with the emphasis on small) are representative of the American tradition.

The elimination of the public schools would deprive Congress of the excuse that it “must” take money from taxpayers in order to support education by connivingly offering “help” to the several states, provided of course that those states agree to a few controlling strings. In short, eliminating the public schools assists Congress by forcing it to obey the written Constitution. When government is limited, then ipso facto the people have more freedom. “The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases.” Thomas Jefferson.

That Congress has strayed from the essence of the Constitution – limiting the reach and power of the created government – can ultimately be laid at the feet of the electorate. Not enough of us have demanded that Congress obey the Constitution because not enough of us know the Constitution, not a co-incidence since the public schools have gone out of their way to avoid teaching the country’s foundational underpinnings. It’s no surprise then that a sizeable percentage of the population does not honor our Constitution since appreciating its ingenuity has been replaced by academically-approved Statism and its worship, a tactic accelerated under Obama but which began in earnest in the 1930s. Certain constitutional symbolisms may still prevail – congressional and presidential terms still begin and end on January 3rd and January 20th respectively; those nominated for federal office still receive the advice and consent of the Senate; state of the union addresses are given “from time to time”; and so forth – but the substantive core thesis of the Constitution – its raison d’être, namely, strictly limiting the reach of the created government – has been so grossly ignored that the “system as practiced” would be unrecognizable to the Framers.

Consider the all-too-typical routine: (i) Congress (whether D or R controlled) passes a putative “law” that has no textual authority, thereby neglecting its institutional duty to check-and-balance itself and only enact measures for which there is express constitutional language, with affirmatively-voting Members disregarding their individually-taken constitutional oaths to support “this Constitution.” (ii) The president, failing in his independent check-and-balance duties to ascertain a law’s compliance with the Constitution and unfaithful to his special constitutional oath, signs that “law.” (nb: Both D and R presidents have been equally guilty.) (iii) That “law” when tested in the federal courts is, surprise, surprise, found to be “constitutional” because the judiciary, ducking out on its own independent check-and-balance duty, relies on a long-practiced, judicially-created legalistic convenience, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, known as presumption-of-constitutionality, an artifice which holds that anything and everything done by Congress is to be presumed by all courts (both federal and state) as constitutional. [Having the benefit of this presumption is an enormous strategic advantage: it shifts the burden of proving constitutionality from the government (the proponent) onto the shoulders of citizen-challengers who are then burdened to disprove the “law’s” constitutionality, a very high legal standard to overcome.] In all other venues of life, a proposition’s proponent bears the burden of proof and persuasion, but perversely not in the one venue where it really should be mandated because in the federal law-making venue can be exercised the greatest measure of control over the greatest number of people. The ObamaCare “law” easily comes to mind, and supporters of this pretense at law-making have been quick to assert the presumption-of-constitutionality trump card against the people.

In short, we have the textual and apparent form of a limited, appropriately checked-and-balanced government, but not the actual substance which will only occur, indeed, can only occur, when men and women of honest character, whose “yes” is their “yes” and whose “no” is their “no,” serve, individuals to whom the letter and spirit of the Article VI oath to maintaining a government of limited reach is a meaningful undertaking. To this point Founder John Adams was prescient in assessing the efficacy of paper handcuffs, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Today we have Members who openly acknowledge that they do not read bills before voting, even apart from performing a thoughtful analysis of a bill’s provisions for compliance with the Constitution, a document to which they have taken a personal oath to support. Some even openly acknowledge that most of what Congress does is unconstitutional (see the recent remarks of Democrat Rep. James Clyburn, SC-6, found here). Despite these admissions, they’re re-elected! Again and again! have we gone mad? A private employer would never tolerate such behavior from an agent or an employee, but we the American people do. That we are in this state of affairs can be blamed in large measure on the American public school curriculum where an appreciation of the ingenious American system is neither taught nor admired. We’ve now arrived at the point where a sitting Congressman (Democrat Rep. Phil Hare, IL-17) can openly state (see this recent video here, at 00:45) that he doesn’t care what the Constitution says, a sentiment obviously held by a majority of Members since Congress continues to putatively enact “laws” in the utter absence of express constitutional text. The recent health care reform act may be the largest and ugliest example, but it hardly stands alone. Contrast the Clyburns and Hares of the world with Davy Crockett (yes, that Davy Crockett), a former Member of Congress (Tennessee, 1827–1831, 1833–1835), in an attributed speech, “Not Yours To Give,” found here.

Where is the express authority to enact so-called health care reform legislation; or the authority to give billions in “foreign aid”; or the authority to enact national educational funding and academic standards; or the authority which enables the executive branch to conduct war/s without express declarations; and on and on? Obviously no such authority exists except in the minds of those privy to the Constitution’s invisible ink. To maintain that Congress’s authority to do as it wishes may be found in the Interstate Commerce Clause, or in the even more nebulous General Welfare Clause, is to say that the Framers went through their painstaking work of setting forth limitations on power, with memories of the harsh treatment which British unlimited government meted out still fresh in their minds, only to learn that they had written two clauses (ICC; GWC) that swallow and emasculate the core concept of limitation. With this sort of open-ended reasoning, nothing is beyond the reach of Congress, Article I, section 8’s enumerated listing be damned.

On this score there is no middle ground: Either we have limited government, or we live under its only known alternative, unlimited government. What should we see as worse: Having Members of Congress who are ignorant of the Constitution’s purposes, or having Members who understand those limiting purposes but who intentionally undermine them through blatant disregard? One is dim-witted, the other dishonest. The answer to this question may be of little moment since the result is the same: a corrupted government that does not play by the people’s agreed-upon rules for conducting self-government. Want proof? Listen to the recent words of Democrat Rep. Alcee Hastings, FL-23, member, House Committee on Rules, “When the deal [i.e., the process of legislating, -editor] goes down, all of this talk about rules, we make [th]em up as we go along.” Video found here.

Contrary to the portrayal by the MSM and the left generally, the current 10th Amendment and Tea Party movements are not anti-government; rather, they are anti-corrupt government. Their existence and the various state proposals to fight the perversion of the Interstate Commerce Clause through intrastate statutes (for example on gun matters or health care reform “mandates”) are healthy signs of an engaged citizenry acting as self-governors. That more and more Americans are carrying pocket-sized versions of the founding documents is evidence that a strong sense of independence from government animates many, and is further evidence that the pathetic efforts of the public schools to erase the personal responsibility heritage of our history have not been altogether successful. Could all these efforts at reviving federalism flourish? Yes, without question, but only if the people follow through and do what they must: Insist that their federal and state representatives strictly confine Congress, binding it, borrowing again from Jefferson, “with the chains of the Constitution.” Such should be a bedrock principle found in the 2010 campaign literature of every worthwhile candidate.

Paul Galvin
Whiskey & Gunpowder

May 4, 2010

Paul Galvin
  • philipgeiger

    Obviously Mr. Galvin has no clue that the elimination of the public school system instituted I believe in the early 20th century to provide workers for the newer advances (technologies) at that time.This was proposed and advanced by both the business and govt. sectors at that time. Each town then had it’s own grammar and high school. One problem with Mr. Galvin’s pie in the sky solution. What happens to the student if he/she fails the curriculum? What then flipping burgers at McDonalds? Any schools for the supposedly uneducated tradesmen/technicians? Or is this stratospheric and completely nebulous thought some fanciful drug induced debate conducted in a well padded ‘rubber room’ called a bar?

  • Charlie

    Working in the higher education arena for the last 18 years, I have seen the ‘quality’ of the students education continue to go downhill. We recently had a student 22 years of age sign up to attend our school with a HS diploma dated May of 2009. He could not read, and could not write above his own name. The further away from home the responsibility is taken, the worse the outcome. In short, if the federal government wants to run it, you will not like the outcome. Too big, too far removed from the day to day actual life in ‘small town USA’.

  • jay moses

    I think Thomas jefferson understood the Constitution about as well as anyone. He outlined a plan for universal public education as early as 1810 and continued advocating for the concept until his death.

    The Massachusetts educational plan implemented by Horace Mann was largely Jefferson’s idea, adapted by Mann for his State and thereafter adopted by all States. Long before there was a Department of Education there were public educational systems in place in every State of the Union; put there by the duly elected representatives of the voters in their respective State Legislatures.

    You can blame the Feds for lots of things, but blaming Washington for the establishment of public education in the U.S. is ahistorical.

  • Brian

    Typically it is held that the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 gives the Federal (read territorial) government the mandate to establish public schools. While the founders recognized the necessity of a well educated citizenry, I don’t believe the intent was for federal regulation of schools. The often mis-quoted section (Sec 4, Art 3) states: Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged. To me, this is stating the same ideal as the First (visible!) Amendment which denies Congress the ability to prohibit the free exercise of religion.
    I believe public education is a good idea, but it must remain firmly in control of the local population. State and Federal government…Get OUT! Nationalized unions….Get OUT!!
    The numerous successful private schools, which abound in nearly every community are proof that local control works. They are also proof that involved parents are the best resource to ensure an education that leads to good government and happiness.
    I don’t know what schools Mr. Geiger is exposed to, but of the 3 private schools in my community, they all provide their students with a greater exposure to modern technology and scientific advances than the local public schools. And at a greatly reduced price too. Our local private schools spend about 75% per student of the state mandated dole out, and the students generate a better score on the state-mandated tests. Before you say, “well they can be choosy about which students they accept”. You are correct….for example, one of the schools caters almost exclusively to children with criminal records……broken homes……..substance abuse issues……and yet, without state aid, continually outperforms the local public schools in their own test scores. Beats me how they do it………but if I had to guess, I would venture to say it is something to do with adhering to a strict moral code, and yet showing these kids they are loved and trusted.
    If you are not active in your childrens schooling……….you might just be shortchanging the people most important to you…

  • Val

    In response to Mr. Geiger’s question, what do you think is already going on? What happens to the millions of students are failing the curriculum now? How would “Mr. Galvin’s pie in the sky solution” make it any worse than it already is?

    Freed of federal government micro-management – which is the price of federal funding – and insatiable union demands, maybe locally funded and run schools could develop curricula and teaching methods better suited to the students are falling through the cracks now and society could get more return on it’s “investment”.

    One man’s “stratospheric and completely nebulous thought” is another man’s innovation.

  • Linda Brady Traynham

    Excellent, again, Mr. Galvin…and perhaps the SPAM filter will allow me to comment for the first time today.

  • JBK

    How about the line that goes something like this: “Provide for the general welfare”. To me, providing for the general welfare means both public education and health care for all. Providing for the common defense does not mean proactive offensive wars of choice. It all depends on how you interpret the words. Now as to the worth of our elected officials: there I have to agree with the author, they’re mostly bozos, epecially Republican bozos like Ensign, McConnell, and the guy with the perpetual tan, Cornyn. Of course, we get the government we deserve, and that means that a fair proportion of Americans are also bozos. Chaulk it up to poor public education. However, private education is no better.

  • Val

    First of, Mr. JBK, that’s “PROMOTE the general welfare”, not “provide”. There’s a huge difference. Providing the general welfare would put the federal government in the position of having to guarantee the general welfare, something no one can do due to way too many uncontrollable factors. That’s along the same lines as one of Benjamin Franklin’s popular quotes “The Constitution guarantees the right to pursue happiness. It’s up to you to catch it.” Same goes for your own welfare.

    Also, if you’re going to “interpret” the Constitution, you should be consistent. If “promote the general welfare” can be interpreted to mean something so global and proactive as public education and health care, then you must apply the same standard to common defense.

    You really shouldn’t be “interpreting” the Constitution, though, unless you include in your interpretation a pretty thorough study of the Federalist Papers, the Anti-Federalist Papers and other letters and articles by the Founders which explain their thinking, why certain things were included or excluded, and why they chose the specific wording. Otherwise, anything can be interpreted in any way that makes you feel good.

    Finally, I’m a product of both public and private education. I have to disagree with you. Private education is MUCH better. If you’re going to make a blanket statement like “private education is no better”, please explain why you feel this way.

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