A Federal Role in Education: Encouragement as a Guiding Philosophy for the Advancement of Learning in America

Gerard Robinson *

Education in the United States is governed by principles of federalism that guide the constitutional relationships between our national government’s three branches and state governments. American federalism was an ideological break from the old ideas of sovereignty under the English governance model that took root in the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, which occurred from May 25 to September 17, 1787. On July 13, 1787, while delegates met in Philadelphia to strengthen the Articles of Confederation (later agreeing to abandon it for a Constitution), members of the Congress of the Confederation convened in New York City and enacted the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. It, along with a then prevailing ideology of encouragement, shaped the early foundation of the federal government’s role in state education.

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* Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and former Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Ed.M., Harvard University; B.A., Howard University; A.A. El Camino College. Many thanks for the thoughtful comments of the editors of the University of Richmond Law Review and Professor Kimberly Jenkins Robinson.