Betsy DeVos Causes Stupidity (Part I)

Specifically, a remarkably silly and ahistorical tweet from my state's junior Senator, Maggie Hassan:

If you want to gain a full appreciation for the Founders' vision for the Federal government's proper role in education, I've compiled the references to that issue appearing in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution:


Yes, that would be zero.

Well, what about the Federalist Papers? Ah, there's one, in Federalist No. 62, discussing the US citizenship-duration requirement for Representatives and Senators (seven years and nine years, respectively):

The propriety of these distinctions is explained by the nature of the senatorial trust, which, requiring greater extent of information and tability of character, requires at the same time that the senator should have reached a period of life most likely to supply these advantages; and which, participating immediately in transactions with foreign nations, ought to be exercised by none who are not thoroughly weaned from the prepossessions and habits incident to foreign birth and education.

Irrelevant aside: today's diversity-mongers would plotz at that xenophobic attitude! But in any case, hardly supportive of Maggie's point.

But let us give Senator Hassan's tweet every chance. What, specifically, about Jefferson? Maggie's chosen quote is from a letter TJ sent to George Wythe [from] Paris, August 13, 1786. He's referring to his proposed (but unpassed) bill to the Virginia legislature; his scheme is described and analyzed here (from an admittedly libertarian perspective). One of numerous facts inconvenient to Maggie's implied thesis:

Jefferson’s plan […] called for a highly decentralized system in which small wards (“districts of five or six miles square”) would establish and control their own schools. Jefferson feared centralized authority, so he did not want even a state government to “take this business [of elementary education] into its own hands.” In his “Plan for Elementary Schools” (1817), Jefferson warned that if a governor and state officials were to control the district schools, “they would be badly managed, depraved by abuses,” and would soon exhaust the available funds.

Bottom line: if Maggie Hassan really wanted an education system in line with the Founders' views, then (among other things) she'd immediately sign on to the proposal to abolish the Department of Education. And I'd vote for her re-election in 2022.

But I'm confident that neither of those things is going to happen.