Tag Archives: education

Why Are Republicans Backing Betsy DeVos?

English: The Lyndon B. Johnson Building, headq...
The Lyndon B. Johnson Building, headquarters of the United States Department of Education in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

US president Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, faces a great deal of opposition to her confirmation. Most of that opposition comes from Democratic politicians and Democratic organizations. But if both parties stuck to their stated principles and goals, the Senate would vote 100-0 against her nomination.

Democratic opposition is easy to understand. The Department of Education is a major power center for the party. It employs 4,400 bureaucrats and disposes of a $68 billion budget. That budget is deceptively small. Although federal funds represent only about 8% of national government education spending, those funds come with strings attached allowing DoE (and by extension the National Education Association, the nation’s largest labor union and a key Democratic constituency) to exert considerable control over every school district in America.

DeVos supports for-profit charter schools which compete with failing regular government schools for tax dollars. She also supports “voucher” programs which allow parents to use tax dollars to send their children to private schools. To groups like NEA, her nomination is the equivalent of waving a crucifix at a vampire. No wonder the Democrats hate her.

Republicans, on the other hand, have been promising to eliminate the Department of Education since 1980, the year it commenced operations. Somehow, though, they never seem to get around to it, even when they have complete control of the federal government and can do anything they like.

Republicans controlled the House, the Senate and the White House for four years during the administration of George W. Bush, and at the end of that the Department of Education still existed.

Now they control the House, the Senate and the White House again, and instead of consigning DoE to the dustbin of history as promised, they’re entertaining  the nomination of a new secretary to head the department.

The truth is that Republicans like the idea of federal meddling in education (something authorized nowhere in the US Constitution) as much as Democrats do. Their preferred form of interference is, if anything, even more pernicious than the NEA’s “keep our tax-funded combination daycare centers/juvenile prisons just like they are, only more money, please” model.

“Voucher” programs and “charter schools” and other Republican schemes don’t get the government out of your childrens’ education. They just extend government regulation into “private” education and direct tax dollars to companies operated by Republican politicians’ cronies instead of to labor unions operated by Democratic politicians’ cronies.

What, did you think a voucher would let you send your kid to a school that doesn’t meet government educrats’ “standards” and “guidelines?” Silly parent! Real private schools are for rich folks like Betsy DeVos!

There’s only one way to make American education great again: Complete separation of school and state.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


End the Education Fights: Time for a Divorce

School -- girl reading (RGBStock)

Students at Mount Horeb Primary Center in Wisconsin were scheduled to read the book I Am Jazz, by teen transgender celebrity Jazz Jennings, in late November, the idea being to acquaint the student body — which includes a trans girl — with the basics of gender identity.

The reading was canceled when school administrators received a nastygram from a group calling itself “Liberty Counsel.” Since the book’s content doesn’t conform to the views of some evangelical Christian parents, exposing their children to it would, Liberty Counsel claims, violate those parents’ civil rights.

Any three people reading this column will probably come up with three different opinions on the specific issue at hand: When should kids learn about gender, where should they learn it, and what should they learn about it? In that area, I can’t say I’m a big fan of Liberty Counsel’s positions (their letter is a poisonous piece of trash that treats gender identities diverging from from their tendentious misreadings of scripture as “confusion” and “mental disorder”).

On the other hand, the incident does bring up a more fundamental point. This past year, brawls over the content of “public education” seem to have centered around gender identity issues — who uses what bathroom, locker room, etc. But the brawls themselves are nothing new. They’ve occurred with regularity ever since government’s hostile takeover of American education began in the mid-19th century. Sex education in general has been a recurring topic, as has evolution vs. creationism in science curricula. Even the state’s cultish loyalty oath, the “pledge of allegiance,” has occasioned multiple 12-round heavyweight extravaganzas.

The solution to all this constant conflict is simple: If we want to end the political struggles over education, we need to end the involvement of politics itself in education. And the only way to do that is to separate school and state entirely.

I said it would be simple. Simple isn’t the same thing as easy. “Public education” in the US, up through the high school level, is an industry with more than $600 billion in annual tax-extorted revenues and millions of employees. They’re one of the most powerful ready-made political lobbies imaginable. They will not go gently into that good night.

But there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Why not start by separating YOUR kids from the government education con game? Private schools may be more expensive and homeschooling may require more effort, but both alternatives produce better results than the combination prisons/daycare centers the state falsely advertises as “schools” these days.

Or I suppose you could just let Liberty Counsel and the local NEA chapter continue to duke it out every other week over what your kids should learn.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


  • “End the Education Fights: Time for a Divorce,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Ventura County, California Citizens Journal, 11/29/15
  • “End the Education Fights: Time for a Divorce,” by Thomas L. Knapp, FPP News [New Hampshire, print edition], December 2015

Unacceptable Speech at Old Dominion

Ban Censorship (RGBStock)

With the fall semester beginning at colleges and universities around the US, it’s time for a new round of controversy over student speech. Right out of the gate, Virginia’s Old Dominion University takes an early lead: WTKR News Channel 3 reports that ODU “officials took time from their weekend to respond to some banners hung up at an off-campus home that are upsetting many.”

The banners: “Rowdy And Fun: Hope Your Baby Girl is Ready for a Good Time.” “Freshman Daughter Drop Off.” “Go Ahead and Drop Off Mom Too …”

Offensive? Yeah, I can buy that. Certainly not very respectful of women. But, on the other hand, also very informative and likely self-correcting. If I lived in that house, I wouldn’t bet money on me being able to get dates with any ODU co-eds this semester. Just sayin’.

But when it comes to truly offensive, sickening speech, let’s talk about this, from an official statement issued by ODU:

“Messages like the ones displayed yesterday by a few students on the balcony of their private residence are not and will not be tolerated.”

Old Dominion is a “public” — by which I mean tax-funded — university. And as the statement makes clear, the banners were displayed at a private residence, not on campus.

Public universities don’t get to decide to “not tolerate” student speech. Especially speech that takes place off-campus at a private residence.

ODU’s administrators, of all people, should be well aware of that fact. Old Dominion originated as part of the College of William and Mary, the institution where Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and John Tyler  studied, and where George Washington got his surveyor’s credentials. The idea that the First Amendment has thus far escaped notice at ODU just isn’t plausible.

In a message to faculty, staff and students, Old Dominion president John R. Broderick claims to have spoken with a young female student who “described the true meaning of the hurt this caused.” The student, writes Broderick, “thought seriously about going home.” Broderick closes his message with dire threats of disciplinary action against those displaying the banners.

Broderick should have spent more time talking with the young student, explaining to her that if a few stupid signs hung on a private residence have her thinking about quitting school, she probably should. ODU is allegedly a university, not a daycare center, and she’s clearly neither intellectually nor emotionally mature enough to handle living on her own as a semi-autonomous adult.

Unfortunately, the teacup tempest at Old Dominion isn’t an isolated incident. America’s colleges and universities seem to be collectively sliding into daycare center mode, where the mission is to offer students four additional years of insulated, isolated childhood instead of educations to fit them for adult life in the real world.

The danger to free speech in this case may seem slight, but it isn’t and can’t be. Speech is free or it isn’t. To compromise that value at Old Dominion now is to cultivate future tyranny everywhere.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.