Hospitals & Asylums    





Federal Core Curriculum? HA-15-12-08


By Tony J. Sanders


In the middle of the garden (of Eden) were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:9


It is important that the education system be wisely governed because 25% of the U.S. population is enrolled in school.  In 2006, 79.1 million people aged 3 and older were enrolled in school.  Of the total, 8.9 million were enrolled in nursery school, preschool, or kindergarten. More than one half, 49.8 million, of the enrolled population in 2006 was enrolled in grades 1 through 12. A total of 20.5 million were enrolled in college or graduate school.  The curriculum is the governing principle of education.   The curriculum is the commodity that is being purchased with education expenditures.  The curriculum guides the course of study that is taught in school and the use of instructional time.  The student is tested on their mastery of that curriculum.  Therefore the primary intellectual responsibility, of greater importance to institutional well-being than the money or the even the test, of a Ministry of Education, is to establish clear and detailed educational core curriculum guidelines.  The core curriculum guidelines establish the minimum standards that textbooks publishers and educators elaborate upon.  In devising core curriculum guidelines Departments of Education focus upon teaching what is needed to pass the standardized tests, upon which the success or failure of educational systems, are judged.  


There is no uncertainty that curriculum is the core of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) International Bureau of Education’s (IBE) efforts.  Their mission statement clearly, ‘builds networks to share expertise on curriculum development in all regions of the world and aims to introduce modern approaches in curriculum design and implementation, improve practical skills and promote informed policy dialogue at national, regional and international levels’.  The Constitution of The World Council for Curriculum and Instruction, provides,As educators in the world community, we have responsibility to ensure that education contributes to the promotion of equity, peace, and the universal realization of human rights. To this end, all curricular and instructional programs should strive to facilitate in every person the development of (1) a comprehensive sense of respect - of self, others, and the environment and (2) the capacity to participate at all levels of world society from local to global’.  The International Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies was established in 2003, ‘to support a worldwide - but not uniform - field of curriculum studies.  Curriculum inquiry occurs primarily within national borders, often informed by governmental policies and priorities, responsive to national situations. Curriculum study is, therefore, nationally distinctive’.


Congress, however, has legislated a Prohibition against Federal control of education under 20USC(31)III(2)§ 1232a as codified from the General Educations Provisions Act  of April 18, 1970, P.L. 91-230, Title IV, sec. 401(a)(10), 81 Stat.169 that was cited at 20USC(52)I§3921 of the Education for Economic Security Act of August 11, 1984, P.L. 98-377,  and reinforced at 20USC(48)I§ 3403 (b) of the Establishment of Department of Education Act of October 17, 1979 P.L. 96-88.  The original Nixon prohibition, from the same year the Controlled Substances Act prohibited all professional competence in drug control, shortly after abandoning the gold standard for the currency, at the height of Vietnam War protests, drug consuming hippies on school campuses, at the start of our modern age of inequality, reads:


No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system, or to require the assignment or transportation of students or teachers in order to overcome racial imbalance’.


The Prohibition on federally sponsored testing under 20USC(31)III(4)§ 1232j, also from the General Educations Provisions Act, being a somewhat abusive practice, particularly for those who have not sufficiently studied for the test, has a loophole whereby ‘no funds provided to the Department of Education or to an applicable program, may be used to pilot test, field test, implement, administer or distribute in any way any federally sponsored national test in reading, mathematics, or any other subject that is not specifically and explicitly provided for in authorizing legislation enacted into law’.  Thus Congress retains the power to degrade the students they have deprived of the right to a quality education.


As a result of these prohibitions, States are left behind to fend for themselves and Sec. 60061(a)(4) of the California Education Code, ‘Guarantees that all copies of any instructional materials sold…are at least equal in quality to the copies of those instructional materials that are sold elsewhere in the United States, and are kept revised, free from all errors, and up to date as may be required by the state board’. 


Congress has legislated an unconstitutional attitude pertaining to education that prohibits good governance, abridging the freedoms of speech and press that would be embodied in a federal core curriculum, and dictates for themselves, that which is degrading, such as testing.  In Tinker et al v. Des Moines Independent Community School District et al 393 U.S. 503 (1969) the U.S. Supreme Court held, ‘A prohibition against expression of opinion, without any evidence that the rule is necessary to avoid substantial interference with school discipline or the rights of others, is not permissible under the First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendments’. 


Exclusion of the federal government from either direct activity or any form of control over local educational policy was a principle established quite early in American history.  The belief in limited federal involvement in education has been replaced by the presumption by many legislators that past federal investments justify imposing high stakes accountability requirements on schools.  Most politicians and citizens accept federal involvement in schools today, but how extensive that role ought to be is still subject to lively debate.  Over the past five decades, conservatives in Congress softened their objections to the principle of federal aid to schools and liberals downplayed fears about the unintended consequences of increased federal involvement. In most of these episodes, supporters of federal aid to education in Congress were typically liberals and Democrats. Opponents to federal aid were usually—but not always—conservatives, Republicans, and Southern Democrats. Liberals frequently defended school aid as a necessary and appropriate role for the federal government. Conservatives (and others) were often concerned about the threat of federal control of schools when they opposed these proposals. Signaling his intention to become an education activist, presidential candidate George W. Bush had to lobby to remove a plank calling for the elimination of ED from the 2000 Republican platform.  It was a significant development for a bona fide conservative to advocate increased federal involvement in schools.


The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) builds on a tradition of gradually increasing federal involvement in the nation’s public school systems.  The first major federal intervention into education was the National Defense Education Act of 1958 (NDEA) of the post Sputnik era of the late 1950s and 1960s federal funds and foundation support were provided to support curriculum and methodological changes in virtually all K-12 subject areas..  This led to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).  Whereupon, a decade later the Rand Corporation determined that only vestiges of the program remained and public schools were highly resistant to change and that this resistance increased as one went up the educational ladder, wherefore the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (P.L. 94-142) led to the 1979 Department of Education Organization Act.   Teachers in schools today are once again involved in curriculum revision in response to more than two hundred national and state studies suggesting that American students are at-risk, indeed the nation is at-risk, in the international marketplace wherefore Goals 2000: Educate America Act of 1994 sought to increase funding for math and science education.  The NCLB was debated and passed by Congress in 2001 and signed by President George W. Bush on January 8, 2002. The law reauthorized (and renamed) the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which was originally enacted in 1965.  Standardized test after standardized test shows that American students don’t fare well when compared to their counterparts in the rest of the world.


The reasonable premise underlying our national system of education is that people in a democracy can be entrusted to decide all matters of importance for themselves because they can deliberate and communicate with one another.  An education for democracy calls the development of “critical thinking skills” as a primary educational goal.  Properly understood, critical thinking is discriminating.  The ability to choose objectively among competing value claims.  The word discrimination has fallen into disfavor for the sound reason that in our nation’s history many have experienced social and political discrimination on the bases of race and sex.  Yet, the word, in its salutary sense, must be restored.  United States citizens must be able and willing to discriminate between better and worse governments, better and worse economic systems, better and worse cultural practices.  The proper core curriculum in a democracy must be distinguishable from a curriculum for tyranny.  Before unrepentantly condemning the prohibition of control of federal education as an unjust law that must be repealed, let us hypothesize what damage would be caused by this system change and prepare to prevent or mitigate such hazards.  Two very serious potential consequences arise - propaganda and toxic reaction.


First, if the federal government were to begin controlling the curriculum, with the power of a federal department of education, would the federal government not then use the department as a vehicle for propaganda, to cover up their very grave mistakes in their history and mobilize the citizenry to be violent proponents of their wars?  While the threat of federal propaganda for war is considerable the underlying philosophy of curriculum studies is to promote peace and teach human rights and the root of the prohibition of federal control of education seems to have been to expel the peace advocates against the Vietnam war from power within the federal government so there is no history of federal propaganda through education. A nation’s sense of its history is indistinguishable from its social cohesion, but if you don’t teach people good history they will learn bad history.  Good history can be distinguished from bad history as a difference between “blinkered nationalism” and “national self-awareness”.  The first narrows one’s view of the world and exaggerates the role of one’s home identity; the latter helps establish pride in one’s place within a world of identities.  There are five common problems history textbooks must solve (i) ideological basis (ii) unnecessary omission (iii) promotion of one’ own role (iv) factual error (v) excess breath of coverage as opposed to depth of coverage.  As an institutional safeguard against federal propaganda the state system of curriculum setting and textbook purchase would be fundamentally unchanged.  The federal government would set forth curricular guidelines needed to pass standardized tests that the states, textbook manufacturers and teachers would embellish with Hitler mustaches of their own choosing. 


Second, because the prohibition of federal control of education was legislated at the same time as the prohibition of controlled substances, and the biblical story of the forbidden fruit is rife with threats of death, there is a distinct possibility that there could be a violent toxic reaction to the repeal of the prohibition of federal control of education, fueled by the rhetoric of the conservative proponents of this prohibition.  Short of transferring the DEA to the DHHS and including toxic substances of note by the Toxic Substance and Disease Registry and university laboratories to the list of prohibited substances of abuse, efforts should be made to “take a bite out of poison” and prohibit the manufacture and stockpile of toxic substances in biomedical and chemical laboratories in universities and elsewhere, who must be ordered to destroy and/or properly dispose of these substances.  NIH funding of biomedical research should also be dramatically reduced or intercepted by liberal artists. 


In conclusion, the finding of this study is that, the Prohibition against Federal control of education under 20USC(31)III(2)§ 1232a as codified from the General Educations Provisions Act  of April 18, 1970, P.L. 91-230, Title IV, sec. 401(a)(10), 81 Stat.169 that was cited at 20USC(52)I§3921 of the Education for Economic Security Act of August 11, 1984, P.L. 98-377,  and reinforced at 20USC(48)I§ 3403 (b) of the Establishment of Department of Education Act of October 17, 1979 P.L. 96-88 and any other laws that abridge the American First Amendment Rights to a quality Education must be repealed under 1USC(2)§109.  Whereas, ‘the repeal of any statute shall not have the effect to release or extinguish any penalty, forfeiture, or liability incurred under such statute, unless the repealing Act shall so expressly provide’, the law that Congress and U.S. Department of Education drafts to repeal these statutes must specifically allow the Department to set the minimum curricular guidelines for the states to elaborate upon.  Having thus provided, for the common defense by securing the Blessings of Liberty to us and our Posterity, by enacting a constitutional, federal system of education allowed teach the curriculum, can anticipate improvement in the test results of the governed.


Sanders, Tony J. Federal Control of Education? Hospitals & Asylums. 31 pgs. 6 figures. HA-15-12-08