The Role of the Secretary of Education

Founded by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, the Department of Education (DoED) was designed to "establish policy for, administer and coordinate most federal assistance to education, collect data on US schools, and to enforce federal educational laws regarding privacy and civil rights." In other words, the DoED was not intended to create a centralized education curriculum; rather, it was designed to ensure the proper execution of education to those across the country and promote educational excellence.

Since its inception, the DoED has faced scrutiny from the Republican Party for its existence and efforts to expand the role of government. In the 1980s, for example, President Ronald Reagan made it a priority to eliminate the DoED, and in the 1990s, the Newt Gingrinch-led House of Representatives vowed to make an effort to eliminate the department (none of these attempts succeeded). This view was reflective of that in 1867, when President Andrew Johnson’s Department of Education was demoted to an Office of Education due to concerns of the government’s overbearing power. This all changed when George W. Bush came into office. He began to work closer with the DoED and, in many ways, went against the Republican Party’s long-standing beliefs. He implemented the No Child Left Behind Act, which effectively centralized education into the government’s hands. The act normalized mass-testing across schools, but came to an end due to its failed execution. With Betsy DeVos currently serving as the Secretary of the DoED, education has been foggy, and controversy has surrounded the department. Now that today is Election Day, the department chair is up for grabs. If Joe Biden wins, I believe that the next Secretary of Education should be…

Sal Khan, Founder & CEO of Khan Academy

Sal Khan with attendees in Irvine, CA to kick off partnership (Image via edSource)

I’m not sure why previous candidates have not selected Sal Khan to be their Secretary of Education. To me, he’s an obvious choice: he’s very well-informed about technology’s impact on education, he (obviously) runs a nonprofit dedicated to personalizing education for all, he understands the educational psychology behind master-based learning, and is well-versed in the arts & sciences. Like Biden, Sal Khan shares the same belief that the Department of Education should be educator-oriented, meaning that government standards should not diminish teachers’ creativity when creating lessons. Teachers should be able to be liberal with how they assign projects and spice up the lessons in any way they please. Good educators produce good students, and we should focus on providing resources to teachers rather than tell teachers how to do their jobs.

Khan would be an especially good pick during this COVID-19 distance learning period because of his extensive experience managing his online platform, Khan Academy. He knows what resources need to be provided to teachers in terms of training, re-education, and more. By the same token, he knows that online learning pales in comparison to in-person learning. So, you can trust that Khan will be an advocate for in-person schooling while also ensuring the best possible virtual experience. The downside of having Khan as Secretary of Education, however, is the fact that he lacks experience in public policy. As an online instructor, he has knowledge on how educationshould be, but not on how it can be implemented. Nontheless, Sal Khan as the Secretary of Education is a no-brainer in my opinion.

First, he must resign from his 501(c)(3) nonprofit Khan Academy to become the head of this executive branch.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) – Honorable Mention

Senator Warren speaks with former Vice President Biden at Presidential Debate (Image via Boston Herald)

With a quick glance at her resume, Elizabeth Warren seems very qualified for the job: she began her career as a public school teacher, became a law professor, and shortly after served in public office (and then she ran for President of the United States). The two things that stand out are her teaching career and her public office career – two aspects that Biden is especially looking after. She knows what resources teachers need to teach, and as a law professor, she has experience with teaching critical thinking skills in the liberal arts. To me, Senator Elizabeth Warren would be a very sensible choice because of the fact that she truly cares about education and how the government can help properly execute and promote excellence in education.

However, the only concern I would have for her is that she would heavily politicize the office and destabilize the department for her successor. Her track-record is filled with progressive activism, which is good for Democrats but bad for Republicans. She has been known to fiercely debate her republican colleagues on the Senate floor and argue for strictly progressive measures (some of which I wholeheartedly agree with), making her a slightly controversial Secretary of Education for the country as a whole. However, we are living in a *very* polarizing period, so maybe she’s only controversial because of the polarization. Nonetheless, I would be perfectly content if she was the next Secretary of Education.

Final Thoughts

In the end, none of these people will probably be selected as the next Secretary of Education. And even so, Donald Trump may very possibly be re-elected today, so these are just my thoughts. I live right outside Washington D.C., so it’ll be interesting how D.C. turns out after the results are announced. A friend told me that her prediction is as follows: Trump will be leading the electoral count tonight and declare victory, D.C. will riot (as previously this year), Biden will then surpass Trump in votes once mail-in votes come, and Trump and Biden will be at a feud. Now that she mentions it, that is a very real possibility, and most likely, there will be some sort of constitutional crisis – it’s really scary to say something like that. However, if Trump ends up winning (and Biden never surpasses Trump with mail-in votes), I think there will 100% be riots in D.C. because of the polarization in Washington. If Biden wins (and Trump never surpasses Biden in mail-in votes), then I’m not sure whether or not there will be riots to the extent of burning buildings and chaos. Maybe this is just me, but the last time there was violence coming from the right was in Charlottesville, VA (my sister was a student at UVA this time), where white supremacists ran cars into an opposing crowd. Nonetheless, I hope there will be a peaceful transfer of power.

This kinda reminds me of the Rutherford v. Hayes election after the Civil War ended, but obviously I didn’t live in that time period so there is no factually accurate claim to be made there.

With all of that being said, my position stands that Sal Khan should be the next Secretary of Education. Feel free to contact me!