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Saturday, May 13, 2006

REPRIEVE FOR FAILURE: A California judge has struck down the state's high school exit exam that required students to demonstrate minimal proficiency in language and math skills in order to graduate. Overturning the will of California voters (no surprise there), the judge said the test isn't fair because all schools aren't "equal." We're not talking about Rhodes Scholars here. We're talking about saying "No diploma" to students who score less than 55 percent in the math test or less than 60 percent in the English language test. We're talking about students getting more than one chance to pass the test, beginning in their sophomore year. Those who fail the first time get a chance to study harder for the final exam in their senior year. Those who fail it the second time can take a shot at earning a GED or attend adult education. This is "unfair"? Really and truly: to whom is it "fair" to give high school diplomas to students who don't master the basic skills of high school? The joke is on 18-year-old Liliana Valenzuela, one of the plaintiffs in the case. "I feel very happy," Liliana declared. "Now I'll be able to have my diploma and fulfill my desire to become a nurse." Memo to Liliana from the Real World: There's not a nursing school in the country that will give you a second look if you don't have a high school degree. By the way, Liliana made that statement in Spanish because (let's say this in unison) she lacks the basic English skills required to graduate from a Bay Area high school in the United States in the year 2006. Maybe I'm being unduly pessimistic about Liliana's chances to become a nurse. Look for a class action lawsuit soon claiming that it is "unconstitutional" to turn down nursing school applications from aspiring nurses just because they don't speak English. Look for demands that nursing schools be required to set up bilingual training programs. Expect the costs of such programs to be paid for by increasing taxes on "the rich." Then wait for patients to sue hospitals when doctors and nurses who don't speak the same language commit some truly horrific instances of medical malpractice. Yes, the real fun's yet to come.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

LIBERAL FASCISTS: People who stand tall for the idea of diversity, then reveal themselves to be mental and moral pygmies intolerant of all viewpoints that differ from their own — the hypocrisy was once worth pointing out because it seemed rare. Not anymore. Prejudice that fancies itself progressive is now the norm on the politically correct left. Witness the thought police doing their best to cancel a commencement speech by Sen. John McCain. A small percentage of the student body at the leftist New School has signed a petition demanding that McCain be disinvited. Check out their "progressive" rationale:
"If Sen. McCain wants to come and debate his views on his conservative support for the South Dakota ban on abortion or war in Iraq or opposition to gay marriage, we are happy to have a debate with him," Tewksbury said. "But as a commencement speaker where there is no give and take, we feel the speaker should represent the views of the university."
Talk about major league narcissism; "speakers must mirror our views." Heaven forbid that a speaker might challenge students to consider alternative viewpoints. But of course New College is comprised of students who believe that their worldview represents "alternative thinking" as such, and in one sense they're right. They despise mainstream American culture per se and so celebrate opposition to the mainstream per se. (One definition of "mainstream" is parents paying for tuition, but let's not even go there.) The fact that McCain is also slated to speak at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University makes the campus thought police even angrier. There's a certain irony that McCain's rights to speak should be opposed, given that coauthored the bill that seriously infringed free speech in the name of "campaign reform." The fact that George W. Bush signed that bill into law (hoping and assuming the Supreme Court would later strike it down as unconstitutional) is but another reason so many conservatives are thinking about sitting on their hands this fall.
WHITE GUILT: An e-mailer suggests I devote a few words to Shelby Steele's important thinking about race in America — a timely request, as I've been spending the last few days reading landmark new book White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the promise of the Civil Rights Movement. It's taking me some time to get to the end, not because the book is long or difficult but because I find myself re-reading entire paragraphs for their sheer intellectual and moral force. Here's the essence of Steele's argument:
As the civil rights victories of the 1960s dealt a blow to racial discrimination, American institutions started acknowledging their injustices, and white Americans -- who held the power in those institutions — began to lose their moral authority. Since then, our governments and universities, eager to reclaim legitimacy and avoid charges of racism, have made a show of taking responsibility for the problems of black Americans. In doing so, Steele asserts, they have only further exploited blacks, viewing them always as victims, never as equals. This phenomenon, which he calls white guilt, is a way for whites to keep up appearances, to feel righteous, and to acquire an easy moral authority — all without addressing the real underlying problems of African Americans. Steele argues that calls for diversity and programs of affirmative action serve only to stigmatize minorities, portraying them not as capable individuals but as people defined by their membership in a group for which exceptions must be made. Through his articulate analysis and engrossing recollections of the last half-century of American race relations, Steele calls for a new culture of personal responsibility, a commitment to principles that can fill the moral void created by white guilt. White leaders must stop using minorities as a means to establish their moral authority — and black leaders must stop indulging them. As White Guilt eloquently concludes, the alternative is a dangerous ethical relativism that extends beyond race relations into all parts of American life.
Why do so many otherwise decent people refuse to identify Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as the parasitic, self-enriching race-hustlers that they obviously are? White guilt. Why does the United States display such strange minimalism and restraint in wars we claim we want to win? White guilt. Why the bizarre lack of collective outrage at the sight of illegal aliens marching in American streets demanding the rights consistent with the citizenship they do not hold and have not earned, the citizenship toward which so many of them show obvious contempt? White guilt. Let's be clear. Slavery was evil, Jim Crow was horrific, racism is sickness. America's age of civil rights was all about America getting clear about those facts. Then we left the age of civil rights and entered the age of white guilt, when formerly oppressed people (emphasis on formerly) realized they "could use America's fully acknowledged history of racism just as whites had always used their race — as a racial authority and privilege that excused [them] from certain responsibilities, moral constraints, and even the law," as Steele puts it. Not the least tragedy of this turn of events is the way it "led blacks into a great mistake: to talk ourselves out of the individual freedom we had just won for no purpose whatsoever except to trigger white obligation." And now the great challenge of our time is to enter a new phase of thought and action, a post-White-Guilt stage of American life, where we find the courage and tenacity for all Americans of good will — Americans of all races — to reclaim true moral authority on America's most difficult issue. To be sure, white people who do so will be declared racist. This is a small price to pay for reclaiming the true higher ground that is waiting to be reclaimed now. It is time to stop yielding to white leaders — Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives — who have learned to use minorities to establish their moral authority in the wake of America's past sins (emphasis on past) toward black people. Here's what I mean. In his excellent book Creating Equal, Ward Connerly writes about how, in early 1996, he got in touch with Jack Kemp to ask Kemp to endorse California Proposition 209, which provided that "the state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting." Kemp hesitated, and so Connerly reminded him it was totally inconsistent for Kemp to stand for free markets and economic empowerment, while also believing that some people should get special consideration for their skin color." Kemp continued to hem and haw, and then got what Connerly remembers as "a chagrined look on his face." Then Kemp said to Connerly: "You've got to remember that I'm a bleeding-heart conservative." Then Kemp reminded Connerly that he, Kemp, was a member of Howard Univesity's board of trustees. That's when Connerly got it: Kemp had learned to leverage his support for affirmative action as a means of getting black leaders to give him their stamp of approval: He may be white but he's OK because he feels guilty about it; he's on our side in the ways that matter. That's the kind of thing that has to stop. Good and decent white people must give up the charade of trying to prove their innocence and their virtue by taking on the collective burden of past racial shame, in a way that empowers demagogues like Julian Bond and the whole self-enriching, self-important, morally posturing, cynically opportunistic civil rights establishment that betrays the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr., simply by existing. In addition to the importance of its message, White Guilt is a beautifully written, wonderfully personal memoir by one of our most sensitive writers. Steele returns to pivotal events in his childhood as he remembers them during a winding drive home from southern California in the late 1990s. I really cannot give this book too strong a recommendation. Even if you're way too busy busy — even if you've got several unfinished books at bedside — pick up this book today and let Shelby Steele take you on a powerful journey that begins with this passage:
Sometimes it is a banality — something a little sad and laughable — that makes you aware of a deep cultural chanbge. On some level you already knew it, so that when the awareness comes, there is more recognition than surprise. Yes, of course, things have changed.

Monday, May 08, 2006

FLORIDA SENATE SEAT: Gov. Jeb Bush just said what's obviously on the minds of reality-tuned observers of the Sunshine State's impending Senate campaign: Katherine Harris's cause is dead in the Gulf. It's clearly too late for the "Who will tell Katherine?" question because there's no doubt she's aware of the doubts. Oddly, or perhaps understandably, the doubts appear to be fueling her stubborn refusal to leave the race and throw her support to a Republican who stands a chance to putting the state's second Senate seat in the GOP column this fall. Let me be clear: I'm with those who believe the current GOP congressional leadership is an affront to the core values of the Reagan Revolution. That said, oh how sickening: the thought of Harry Reid running the Senate a year from now. Yes, it's a hard sell, this "lesser of two evils" argument. That's why I'm hoping the congressional majority will use the next few months to start acting like people who remember what Reagan stood for and why — so people who believe in limited government and the rule of law can feel good about going to the polls to help keep the Congress from falling into the hands of the really bad players who make up the mean-spirited goon squad that the political party of Jack Kennedy has become. (JFK was no saint but he understood the evil of communism and lowered tax rates across the board.)
NEW CIA PICK: If the well-being of the Republic is threatened by placing a military officer in charge of the CIA today, was it also dangerous when Jimmy Carter tapped Admiral Stansfield Turner for the same gig nearly three decades ago? With only a couple of reservations, Turner declares General Hayden "very qualified and very capable." Then again, "Jimmy Carter and Stansfield Turner proved a grim team to lead the CIA, so the admiral’s example may not be very helpful to General Hayden," notes Rich Noyes over at News Busters. My gut tells me Rush has it right when he sees a smart Bush strategy in the Hayden choice, namely:
If they bring this guy up and the Democrats want to go on display once again attacking an Air Force man, a military man who's making it plain that he views his job, number one, the defense and the security of this country, in their already-won-everything mode, they're going to shoot themselves in the foot. I think they're going to do that anyway.