Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk - A weekly Column

February 9, 1998

National testing averted, but education woes still unresolved
Washington is big part of the academic problem, not the solution

As I cast my vote for a measure to stop the Clinton Administration from instituting national testing, I did so with a degree of reluctance. Not because I like national testing, but because the measure - like so many introduced in Washington - had less to do with principle than with politics.

If we are to be a nation which follows the law, the federal government has absolutely no role in education. In fact, the federal government is completely excluded from having a role in education under our nation's highest law. Our Constitution clearly defines what the federal government can and cannot do, reserving all powers and authorities not specifically discussed in the document to the state and local governments, and to the people.

Since the federal government began interfering in education, we have seen a dramatic decrease in our nation's level of academic excellence. Not because our teachers are worse, or because our students are dumber, but because the policies which affect the classroom make no sense. Our teachers have become mired in the muck of federal regulations which hamstring everyone involved in education. For example, in order to qualify for the taxpayer-funded lunch program for lower-income students, schools must accept a variety of rules and regulations. These rules have nothing to do with food preparation and everything to do with inflicting strange ideas and methods on our kids.

Further, the federal stranglehold on education has all but removed parents from being active participants in their child's education. Not because the parents want it that way, or because the teachers want it that way, but because East Coast college professors, who have more degree than experience in the elementary classroom, see parental involvement as an obstacle and impediment to their political power and agenda.

In fact, federal involvement in education is less about any real desires to educate kids as it is about ensuring a power-base for the Washington politicians. Decisions that affect our teachers and students are made on the basis of promoting the interests and securing the livelihood of bureaucrats, rather than sound science and years of hands-on experience.

That the federal government would want to now implement a nationwide test is hardly surprising. Such testing would only complete the big-government advocates real agenda of striping all power and authority from the parents, local school boards and teachers. With everything riding on the performance on these tests, teachers would be required to instruct their students not in the areas most important to them and to their future, but rather teach "to the test."

Even worse, "teaching a test" leads to a far inferior education, for the simple reason that uniformity of process and results requires sacrifice and compromise to the exclusion of all else, including excellence.

So when legislation came up to prevent the Clinton Administration from implementing these national tests, I was ready to cast a vote for the Constitution and for American education. But as the process advanced it became abundantly clear that the real motivation of those pushing the legislation had less to do with a philosophic opposition to the federal stranglehold on education and testing, but rather a partisan desire to oppose a test created by this president. The legislation which passed Congress prevents a president from arbitrarily instituting a national standards test. The president can get a national test if he really wants one, he just has to get the approval of Congress first.

There is no doubt that American schools are facing hard times. But the solutions to the problems are found not in Washington, but in the home and local schools. In fact, not only is Washington not part of the solution to our academic malaise, it is the root of the problem. While we averted adding to the problem in the near future, the best thing we can do in the long-run for our schools and our children is to follow the Constitution and get the federal government out of the equation.

Sadly, the entrenched advocates of unconstitutional big-government have little reason to fear losing their power anytime soon: the attitude in Washington, DC, is still firmly against local control and parental power, regardless of the rhetoric.