Back to the Question: Is a FEDERAL Department of Education Necessary—notes from academia

On Madison’s Fed. 10
            Evaluating the appropriate federal role in education—well, really in anything—deserves an analysis of what many will point to as the best source of authority about government roles: the federalist papers, of course.  Federalist Paper Number Ten, Authored my James Madison circa 1787 rests of a certain view of our nation.  Namely, “[t]hose who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.”  As between the two options of either stifling the liberty that creates the faction in the first place or controlling the effects that follow from factions, Madison uneasily settles on the latter.  He finds that factions will almost by definition be mischievous, but where there is a democratic government—which is astute to define: “consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person”—the effects of factions will be minimized but not eradicated.  For Madison, a republic, not a true democracy has the potential to override factions.
            It is through Madison’s “scheme of representation” in a republic that a cure can be found for factions.  So what does this have to do with federal education?  Well, Madison’s proposition extended means that there are factions that exist to act from the outside on education decisions—and logically also factions that exist within education to act on decisions the public should make about education.  These individual factions, working from within and working from the outside, level out in a representative environment such that only those ideas worth bringing to a higher, next level decision-making get discussed: those ideas that are duplicative of efforts in other places, those ideas that are deeply believed, those ideas that are innovative enough to curry favor, and/or those ideas that are so much a part of the identity of the representatives that they cannot be left behind.  Madison’s representative state, the republic, thus is less about the capture of factions and more about the conclusions drawing process that stems from the experimentation or novelty from the polity.

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