Two of the biggest intrusions into American liberty have come because American politicians assume things that just aren’t true. Specifically, that it’s the duty of the federal government to guarantee that the entire population is educated and healthy.
There is almost no debate that people should have health care and education. But why should the federal government be involved?
In the fantasy lexicon of government bureaucracy, education means, “someone will pay for your college degree” or “you will pass tests” and health care means “someone will pay for your health insurance.” Sadly these definitions have nothing to do with what health care and education are really about.
Education is about learning. Learning can occur in many places outside of traditional classrooms. Measuring learning effectively is difficult, because each child is different, so the government seeks to quantify it through examining who goes to school or who passes tests. Most recently, the federal government has sought to extend control of educational outcomes through “Common Core” standards and assessments.
As an educator, I find the idea of creating uniform standards of measurement, for every public school in the nation located in those states which have adopted such standards, disturbing. Teachers understand that students are not robots. Government-imposed educational standards limit creativity and force teachers to abandon innovation in favor of conformity.
The issue is not just the quality or lack thereof of the standards themselves. It’s that government-imposed standards come with government-defined goals and measurements, and a government-directed student database.
For example, the Common Core standards operate according to a premise that the education of a child should be for the purpose of“college, career and life” <http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/> readiness. What is “life readiness?” How is that term even defined, and how is it measured when a youth graduates from high school?
By pretending it has the ability to define and measure readiness for “college, career, and life” the government can promise to bring comprehensive change to public education when, in reality, it is simply accruing power.
Though they are not often linked, the arguments for federal government involvement in healthcare and education are strikingly similar. Like education, government uses definitional changes to trick citizens and fake its own success on the issue of health care. Notice in the debate over health care, what the government actually mandated was a product – health insurance. Health care is not health insurance. Yet, in the world of bureaucratic control, these are the same. Notice that the government measures Obamacare’s success not by whether citizen’s health has improved but by how many citizens have signed up. This is absurd.
Health care and education are intensely personal and are not given to standardized measurements and centralized controls. By redefining education and healthcare and then pretending to be able to solve the problems in each, the federal government shields itself from the truth. Uncle Sam’s attempted solutions often have only made matters worse. Politicians love to promise us the things we desire, but informed citizens should scrutinize carefully what they are really saying.
It is time we stopped letting politicians pretend they know how to run our lives. If local communities can no longer educate their children or take care of their sick, then America is in trouble. Government has the power to coerce but not the power to heal. Government has the power to regulate but not the ability to educate. It is time for Americans to stand and reclaim their freedom from the bureaucratic leviathan lest, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” shall perish from the earth.
Nathan Oppman is lectures coordinator at the Family Research Council, and is currently pursuing his Ed.D. at Bob Jones University.