Educatile Dysfunction

“We’re from the government. We’re here to help!” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona thinks President Reagan said that, but the actual quote is: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” Commentators rightly lampooned Cardona but overlooked a couple of back stories.

According to his official bio, Cardona earned a bachelor’s degree from Central Connecticut State University, and a master’s degree and PhD from the University of Connecticut. The bio fails to explain that the degrees are in “education,” not exactly a discipline on a par with physics, economics or history. Despite his ignorance, Cardona may not be the worst education secretary.

Obama pick Arne Duncan studied sociology at Harvard. That recalls the scene from Dirty Harry where Callahan (Clint Eastwood) learns that new partner Chico Gonzales (Reni Santoni) studied sociology at San Jose State. “Sociology?” Callahan says. “Oh, you’ll go far.” For his part, Duncan went much farther than previous education secretaries.

Like Bill Clinton, Obama sent his children to the prestigious Sidwell Friends School, unaffordable for the majority of students in Washington DC. Their best alternative is the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships Program, a school choice program run by Congress. The program is popular with African American parents but opposed by teacher unions and federal education bureaucrats. Duncan decided to step it up.

“Mr. Duncan decided—disappointingly to our mind—to rescind scholarships awarded to 216 families for this upcoming school year,” the Washington Post editorialized. Nine out of 10 students who were shut out of the scholarship program were “assigned to attend failing public schools.”

Arne Duncan, white as Frosty the Snowman, ejected black students from the schools their parents wanted them to attend. That’s a lot worse than botching a quote from Ronald Reagan, and there’s more going on here.

Miguel Cardona heads a federal Department of Education (DoE) that dates only from 1978. The new department was Jimmy Carter’s payoff to teacher unions for endorsing him in his run for president. Top-heavy with bosses bagging six-figure salaries, DoE did nothing to improve student achievement. Should that be doubted, check out the 1983 A Nation at Risk report, 40 years before the current jihad of junkthought.

Education is the purview of the states, so strictly speaking ED should not exist. It’s from the government but it doesn’t help. At first opportunity, Congress should give ED an existential problem.

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