Sunday, September 25, 2011
Dept. of Ed.
I spent a few minutes on the Department of Education website, reading about its history...at least as far as the Department sees it. Interesting stuff.
The original Department of Education was created in 1867 to collect information on schools and teaching that would help the States establish effective school systems. While the agency's name and location within the Executive Branch have changed over the past 130 years, this early emphasis on getting information on what works in education to teachers and education policymakers continues down to the present day.
Despite the growth of the Federal role in education, the Department never strayed far from what would become its official mission: to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.
Fascinatingly modern language, revealing perhaps a slight revision. The 'what works' notion is particularly revealing. It feels too contemporary, confirmed by the Department's own project called the 'what works clearinghouse.'
As for the the first sentence of the Department's mission, it doesn't make sense, even internally--within the sentence itself. The department never strayed far from what would become its mission? You mean to say it had that mission before anybody ever knew it would be the official mission? So, they were preparing students for global competitiveness from the beginning? And ensuring equal access (to what they don't say--presumably to education)? Really? That's the contemporary mission? Historically, though? And what in the world does "despite" have to do with the first phrase?
It all reads like an effort to legitimate and bolster the Department by showing its historical presence and merit. The ruse unravels when modern notions of the Department's work and identity are generalized backward in time.
All the Republican candidates want to drastically cut or eliminate the department. We'll see. That kind of thing doesn't happen all that often.
Posted by Andrew Milton at 9:22 PM