Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "The new slave trade," March 25, 2000

Judge blocks vouchers; private money to help
Choice survives
In 1963, Alabama Gov. George Wallace stood in a schoolhouse door in a failed attempt to keep blacks from entering. Thirty-seven years later, a Florida judge has effectively stood in the schoolhouse door, barring minority and poor children from getting out of their failed schools and into private schools where they will get a real education. The case, which Gov. Jeb Bush says will be appealed, involved 53 Pensacola poor children, who were given state money to pay private-school tuition in Florida's groundbreaking voucher program. In their private schools they were learning to read and write, something they weren't accomplishing as well in their government-run school. It's no surprise that teachers' unions and other organizations want to keep kids trapped in these failed schools. The big surprise is that the NAACP, which is supposed to be about advancing people of color, is a co-conspirator in assuring that many poor minority children will remain stuck in the intellectual equivalent of a condemned building. Ted Forstmann, the Wall Street financier who heads the Children's Scholarship Fund, tells me he will pay for the 53 Pensacola kids to remain in their private schools. He also believes many people are not aware of the history of education in America and the amount of money misspent on the current system. Mr. Forstmann wants you to know that K-12 education is a $400 billion "enterprise," twice the size of the telecommunications market. And it's a monopoly. Government has broken up smaller monopolies on the correct theory that monopolies produce a bad product at a high price. Education spending in constant dollars has increased 14-fold since 1920. Test scores are down, international rankings are an embarrassment, and census data show public schools have become the second likeliest place in America for a violent crime to occur. The solution to the violence problem is not trigger locks, but unlocking the public-school door so kids and parents can escape if they choose. The Founders never intended for government to teach the next generation. In fact, before the American Revolution and for the first 100 years of America's existence, education was competitive and diverse. Choice was widespread and, while not a perfect system, children learned. Such a system produced George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and many other well-educated citizens. Jefferson correctly observed: "If a nation expects to be both ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be."

-Cal Thomas, © 2000, Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Ups & Downs of the week
Binge drinking in college: Despite all the alcohol education and anti-drinking programs of the 1990s, about the same number of students on America's college campuses went out and got wasted. A survey released by the Harvard School of Public Health covering 14,000 undergraduates found that 44 percent were binge drinkers, compared with 43 percent in 1997, and 45 percent in 1993. "Bingeing" in this case means a man had at least five drinks (or a woman four). The credibility of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: PETA launched a "Got Beer?" campaign to get students to drink alcohol instead of milk. "If you drink milk, you are supporting a product that is horrible for human health, catastrophic for the environment and a living nightmare for the animals involved," said Bruce Friedrich, PETA's vegetarian campaign coordinator. The Buzz tosses a ripe tomato-suitable for the making of barbecue sauce-at GOP state Rep. George Albright of Florida for breaking new ground for big government. He filed legislation to create a new cabinet-level post: secretary of barbecue. "Barbecue is big business in this state," he said. It's also big business to Mr. Albright, co-owner of two barbecue restaurants. The secretary of barbecue would serve a one-year term without pay.

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The No-Comment Zone

  • Fewer people will run more newspapers. That's the result of Tribune Co.'s plan to buy Times Mirror Co. in a $6.3 billion deal. It would create a media empire including the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, nine other newspapers, and various other properties under one set of corporate managers. Look for the papers to hold tightly to the ever denied liberal slant and corporate grey dullness in news content as everything folds under one set of corporate managers.
  • About 83 percent of Americans support the teaching of evolution in public schools, but about 79 percent support the teaching of creationism. The polling firm DYG Inc., in a poll for the leftist group People for the American Way, also found that almost half of respondents agreed that the theory of evolution "is far from being proven scientifically," while 68 percent thought it possible to believe in evolution while also believing that God created humans and guided their development. Daniel Yankelovich, chairman of DYG, said the results reflect the postmodern belief that no single view can provide complete understanding of most issues.
  • Pressured by Capitol Hill lawmakers, the White House made public the text of a sweeping trade agreement with China. The document had been kept under wraps since it was completed last November. Trade officials said its release would prejudice ongoing negotiations between China and other World Trade Organization member states. But members of Congress charged that the American public was being left out of the trade debate because of the secrecy. The agreement calls on China to further open now-restricted markets like telecommunications and agriculture. In return, the United States must make normal trade relations with China permanent. Beijing's trade status is now subject to annual review and has been a referendum on human rights and freedom in China.
  • Cardinal Ignatius Kung, who spent 30 years in Chinese prisons for his Catholic faith, died on March 12 at age 98. Pope John Paul II, who secretly named Mr. Kung a cardinal in 1979 while he was in prison, called him a "noble son of China" who showed "heroic fidelity to Christ amid persecution and imprisonment." Mr. Kung was imprisoned for defying attempts by China's communist government to control Roman Catholics through a state-run church. Mr. Kung was released from prison in 1985 and given permission to travel to the United States for medical treatment in 1988. He died from stomach cancer at the Stamford, Conn., home of his nephew, Joseph Kung, founder of the Cardinal Kung Foundation, which monitors religious freedom in China.

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