February 15, 2022


President Biden’s Plan for Universal Pre-K Is Antithetical to Self-Government

By: Christina Grattan

I found myself sitting in the office of the director of academic programs at Hillsdale College, discussing the merits of classical education. Amid a culture war, I have always contemplated the purpose of education, with many competing ideologies and narratives circulating in academia. Yet, I held onto a precious truth the director told me: we should be preparing everyone for self-government.

However, our nation has drifted far from the founding principles of self-reliance, republican virtue, and constitutionalism. Within the demands of modern life, President Biden has taken the initiative to dream up a $1.8 trillion spending bill (originally $3.5 trillion) desiring to change the life of every American. One, especially concerning part, is his bold idea for establishing universal Pre-K

President Biden’s plan for universal Pre-K is antithetical to how Americans are supposed to be a self-governing people. His progressive vision assumes that one mode of education propelled by a top-down government system where the earlier kids enter is conducive to democracy. However, this short-sighted ideal is not harmonious with the country’s founding principles.  

The Founders never intended the federal government to have jurisdiction over education. In The Federalist Papers, no. 45, James Madison wrote, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”

 With the principles of federalism, the founders desired to maintain a balance of power between state, regional, and the federal government. This meant that all powers not listed in the Constitution were left to the people and states to determine on their own. Nowhere in the Constitution were there provisions for any sort of education. 

Nevertheless, President Biden assumes his plan will help “America build back better,” but such an idea would wipe away the original spirit of America conceived in liberty.

The limited government the founders created was based on a new experiment never tried before. The idea of a republic hinged on the ability of people governing themselves through local and voluntary institutions. As George Washington declared in his presidential inaugural address, “the destiny of the republican model of government” is “deeply . . . staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”  

Yet, President Biden seeks to supplant this ideal with a federal government so encompassing that people do not need to govern themselves let alone think for themselves. If parents become accustomed to putting their children in pre-school starting at the age of three under the guise of the federal government, they will forget what our country stands for. 

Moral formation cultivates American self-government, not through government schools run by experts, but natural groupings such as the family, neighborhood, church, and voluntary associations. These institutions give life to the individual, teaching them the higher things in life through virtue, courage, and self-sacrifice, forging a free society.

With the increasing scope of the federal government since the New Deal, the ability for people to stay true to the integrity of the founding is in peril. As Julia Shaw, from the Heritage Foundation, writes, “We’re being told, essentially, that we’re incapable of governing ourselves. Instead, we need bureaucrats to determine what our children learn in Head Start, and primary school.” 

If we leave education in the hands of bureaucrats through universal Pre-K, our children will fail to learn what it means to be free. Such government programs wither away the supportive communities necessary for self-government. The individual will be left alienated with little direction other than a state that teaches whatever the woke establishment declares noble. Therefore, self-government will become foreign to children conditioned by progressive policy, left to conform to a “cradle to grave”welfare state. 

Without the family serving as the first “school of liberty,” teaching children how to be upright and strive for excellence, our republic faces imminent danger. Nevertheless, those like Biden who champion universal Pre-K to bolster the bureaucracy have moved far beyond the founding principles. 

The path in front of America is not an easy one. We must think about our future generation’s education and ask if we are still capable of self-government. And to do so, we must understand that Biden’s proposal for Pre-K for all is antithetical to its pursuit and the founding itself.