Last week, the White House released a proposal to restructure the federal government, featuring a plan to merge the Department of Education and Department of Labor. Black students, whose ancestors’ bodies were once reduced to instruments of labor in slavery, have the most to lose from this politically-driven merger.
The notion of a governmental reboot seems fair enough. Government bureaucracies that grow over time can be anathema to innovation and efficiency. Technology has challenged the way we engage with all institutions, and the federal government could certainly improve its use of technology to better deliver services.
Unschooled reductions in government and reflexive conservatism create more problems and inefficiencies than they purport to resolve.
Sure, education is linked to the workplace. Students grow up to be workers, and the federal government has a role in ensuring states are providing a quality education, especially in districts with many black and brown children. However, to collapse education and labor into a single agency is to also reduce education’s role in developing full human beings. Students are more than widget makers for the economy. And black students, whose ancestors’ bodies were once reduced to instruments of labor in slavery, have the most to lose from a shortsighted, politically-driven merger of the U.S. education and labor departments.
Children need to view themselves as full human beings, as citizens even, something a good liberal arts foundation provides. By limiting education to a workforce development function and downplaying its political, social and development roles, the conservative position that education must be in service to the workforce benefits those who are currently in power, and education leaders are aggressively converting that belief into policy.
We need to keep education separate so we will never confuse what its purpose really is: freedom.