Can This Really Be True? Yet Another Reason Machen Was Right?

Did school officials really suspend a Sanford, NC high school student and then file criminal charges against her because she took her dad’s lunch bag (which contained a small paring knife) to school? School officials say that had she turned herself in she would not have been punished as severely but because she didn’t they threw the book at her. She says that she didn’t know the paring knife was in the lunch bag and therefore couldn’t have reported it. Now school officials say that she’s being charged because the knife was in her purse. She’s been out of school since October and is worried about her college admission over the charges. 

That this case is at this point is another argument for the privatization of primary and secondary education. Yes, society has an interest in a reasonably well-educated populace but the more I read about the rise of the modern education establishment the more I see the wisdom in Machen’s opposition to the Federal Dept of Education in 1926.

The aim in the making of Ford cars is to make every one just as much like every other one as possible; but the aim in education is to make human beings just as much unlike one another as possible. I admit that the aim in the case of Ford cars is not always attained very well. The removal of idiosyncrasies in Ford cars is not always perfectly carried out. I can say from my experience with Ford cars before the days of self-starters that sometimes a Ford car will start and sometimes it will not start, and if it will not start there is no use giving it any spiritual advice at all. Sometimes, despite everything that Mr. Ford can do, there is too much individuality in a Ford car; but the purpose is to make every one just as much like every other one as possible. That is the purpose of a great many educators when it comes to education today, and it is the purpose that underlies the tendency in this bill. It is to remove idiosyncrasies, to interfere with people who have peculiar ideas in education, and to try to produce a uniformity of education in this country.

I do not believe that the personal, free, individual character of education can be preserved when you have a Federal department laying down standards of education which become more or less mandatory to the whole country. Of course, there are people who say that a Federal department does not mean anything. They say that when they talk to men of our way of thinking. A good many people seem to have the notion that a Federal department, like the House of Lords during the Napoleonic wars, will “do nothing in particular and do it very well”; but for my part I do not believe, when you get a department with a secretary who has a salary of $15,000 and a great many secretaries under him, and when you get this dignity of a department, that you are going to find that that department is going to be very modest about the funds for which it asks.

The original plan for the department now simply known as ED was quite modest. In January 2010, the President asked congress for 50.4 Billion dollars for the department that Machen opposed in 1926. Maybe Machen had a point?

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