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Open Letter to Mick Mulvaney on Merging the Dept. of Labor with Dept. of Education

Scroll to around minute 17 in the video to see Mr. Mulvaney’s report: 

Share if you see fit, and I would love a lively (but respectful) discussion in the comments.

Mr. Mulvaney,

You made several good points during the cabinet meeting on June 21st. I agree with you, when you say that government is inefficient, and that several departments have areas which are unnecessarily redundant. This is something my husband and I have discussed at length over the years, and we agree that there are many departments that could (and probably should) be abolished, merged, or reorganized.

However, I think merging the Departments of Labor and Education into one is a bad idea. On the surface, it sounds like a good idea. It’s true that both departments have some overlap, and that education prepares an individual for adulthood, but education is about more than just getting a job. If all we do is prepare children to be cogs in the wheel of some great machine, we destroy the very foundation of what makes us uniquely human.

Education develops the whole person

While a job-training program teaches certain skills required for a given job, education is more holistic – at least it should be more holistic.

We have seen that turning out vast armies of people, all trained in exactly the same way for jobs that are now obsolete, or will be in the near future, is a mistake – yet this is exactly what our current education system does. Despite the changes made over the last several years, our education system is not working. This is being shown in recent years by colleges that are actively seeking homeschooled students, because, according to the colleges, they are more likely to complete a degree program, they come to the school already thinking outside the box, and are there for the learning. While homeschooling is not the answer for all, it does bring certain qualities to the table that should be explored.

Merging the two departments will only exacerbate this problem, because the new mono-department would be more apt to encourage educational policies which focus filling the labor force – with a high probability of career-tracking kids into fields in which they have an aptitude, but do not want.

As an example of the career-tracking idea, in high school, I was told I’d be a great engineer because of certain math skills and a high degree of spatial awareness. If I had been career-tracked into an engineering program, I would now be a miserable, angry engineer, looking for the nearest fire escape. It would have buried my unique ability to create, and to learn and grow, beneath piles of skills needed for a job I did not want.

In contrast, a solid education creates a rounded person, with an ability to creatively adapt to changing circumstances. Yes, some people are more naturally flexible than others, but a good foundation can help those who are less flexible adapt more easily. A person with this foundation has an understanding of the past – what has worked, what hasn’t, and what should never have been. They also have the ability to dream, and the work ethic to progress towards making those dreams a reality. Through this foundation they can be active participants in our republic, and indeed the world, and share the ideas that made America truly great: Freedom, innovation, and creativity.

Some of the greatest thinkers and innovative minds in history had the opportunity to think outside the box – and many had only a minimal formal education – Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, John Adams, Albert Einstein and more come to mind.

The Departments of Labor and of Education have some overlap, but each has an entirely different focus

The Department of Labor is primarily responsible for things like unemployment insurance and statistics, workplace safety, and other concerns unrelated to education. Conversely, the Department of Education has responsibilities that are completely unrelated to the workforce. Those areas that overlap should be assigned to the appropriate department. This is common sense, and I agree with you in saying the redundancy needs to be addressed.

However, with every good idea there are almost always some unintended consequences. In this case, creating one large department that tries to “do it all” could be catastrophic, in terms of killing future innovation. Think about this: That “all-in-one” printer does several things adequately; but if you really wanted to focus on the quality, you’d get a separate scanner, printer and copier. Sure, the convenience of one is handy, but it’s at the cost of quality. I don’t believe that any of us want to sacrifice our kids’ potential futures, creativity and innovation at the altar of convenience and saving money.

To be fair and honest, I actually believe that the Department of Education is something that doesn’t need to exist – but merging it into another behemoth is a recipe for disaster. It should be pared down gradually, as control of education is relinquished to the states, localities, and parents. The country is vastly different from one end to the other – treating the entire country the same under a large department is not efficient.

I believe Reagan was right when he said, “Government isn’t the solution, it is the problem,” but I think that merging these two departments will cause unintended consequences from which we, as a people, may suffer from for generations to come.

I hope this finds you well, and I look forward to discussing it with you, if you’re so inclined.


A mom.