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Autumn 2000
 
City Journal Autumn 2000.
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  L etters

 

Après Moi, Le Deluge?

To the editor:
I quite take William J. Stern's point about the "New York state of mind," as Billy Joel put it. [See "Why New York Democrats Love Hillary," Soundings, Summer 2000.] And you are quite right about the energy-producing states and the Clinton proposal for a BTU tax as part of the 1993 tax package. As your analysis would indicate, it passed the population-based House, but got nowhere in the state-apportioned Senate.

On the other hand, we did get a 4.3-cent gasoline-tax increase. The secret there is that New York gets back $1.18 for every $1 it contributes to the Highway Trust Fund. This is the result of a complicated formula that we were able to change in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. As chairman of finance I thought that was some compensation for the income-tax hike. (We had to deal with that deficit, and have done so. Don't you think?)

I would point to another problem. In those southern and western capitals they seem to know what goes on in Washington. Not with us. That ISTEA legislation was the result of a rare conjunction. The House chairman of the conference committee was Bob Roe of New Jersey. I was Senate chair. We knew exactly what we were doing. I even got us $5 billion as repayment for the Thruway. Never had a postcard from Albany. Nor anything I can point to as a result.

Hon. Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Pindars Corners, NY

William J. Stern responds:
I'm glad that Senator Moynihan agrees that New York politicians don't adequately represent the state's long-term regional interests—his own efforts aside. But can we expect the situation to improve if the New York Democratic Party's chosen candidate, Hillary Clinton—with her rootless ideology and national ambitions—is elected as his replacement? One wonders how the senator views the prospect.
 

Ivory Tower Ghetto

To the editor:
Would that only British slums tortured the intelligent and sensitive. The inner-city high school where I teach doesn't blight young minds to the extent described in Theodore Dalrymple's "Lost in the Ghetto" [Summer 2000], but these youngsters head off to universities where their best instincts will be subverted by the spirit-sapping, nihilistic egalitarianism that pervades American higher education. After just the freshman year, they often return with the trusting, confident light in their eyes already extinguished. The most sensitive—usually those in the humanities—fare the worst. As one young man said, "If everything sucks, why bother with anything?" He dropped out, not because of poor grades or lack of funding, but from boredom.

All too often today, higher education shrivels souls just as slums do. What should be the escape from intellectual and cultural poverty has become its entranceway.

Major Richard Rail
U.S. Army (Ret.)
Phoenix, AZ
 

Home Sweet Home Schooling

To the editor:
Congratulations and thanks for a splendid article on home education ("An A for Home Schooling," Summer 2000). I have shared it with several folks—including my wife, who, though typically critical of "overviews" of home education, praised yours.

Douglas Dewey
Chief Operating Officer
Children's Scholarship Fund

To the editor:
I once helped my oldest son with a fifth-grade report on sub-atomic particles, which included a diagram of a quark. We used a National Geographic magazine—one several years old—for reference. The science teacher said that the material in the report was all news to her. She had never even heard of a quark. It wasn't too long after that that I began to investigate home schooling. Why limit oneself to learning at the narrow, socialist, one-size-fits-all public schools? Thank you for a solid, positive piece about the future of education in America.

Robert Clark
via e-mail

To the editor:
A resounding thank you to Brian C. Anderson for his excellent, well-researched article on home schooling. I am the mother of two, and we are entering our second year of home schooling. I faced a lot of opposition from family and friends when we started, but within seven months, we had achieved our goals for the year: my six-year-old learned to read, tell time, and carry and borrow in addition and subtraction, among other things. I saved Anderson's article to encourage other new home-schooling parents who may face opposition. I also forwarded it to our local support group and various family members.

Sue Gorecki
Pittsburgh, PA

To the editor:
As a home-educating parent of three, I always find it refreshing to see a favorable journalistic piece on the subject.

However, I take issue with one thing in your article: "But the public does have a legitimate interest in making sure that home-schooled kids get educated and that, say, a dysfunctional foster care family isn't yanking its children out of school to use them as laborers." Most home-schooling families recognize that their vested interest in their children's education so far surpasses any public interest that, in the vast majority of cases, failure is not an option. If parents fail to educate their children, then the parents will take the brunt of supporting an unemployable adult child. There are already laws on the books that protect children from the scenario you describe.

You seem to fall prey to the stereotype—which the rest of your article speaks against—that home-educated children are isolated and kept out of public view. This is exactly what the NEA-types want Americans to believe about home education. Their fear-mongering is understandable, since they face a loss of power and tax money. But home-educating families recognize their responsibility, both to their children and their communities—in many cases, more acutely than others. If we did not take these responsibilities to heart, can any serious inquirer believe that home education could have grown so widespread in so short a time?

Christine Stout
Batavia, IL

Brian C. Anderson responds:
While I agree with Ms. Stout's characterization of the NEA's calumny against home schooling, I do believe there is a public interest in making sure kids get educated. I argued for home-schooling regulation that would be maximally flexible and non-intrusive. But some kind of regulation is necessary to guard against potential abuses. Parents should not have an unlimited right to teach their child nothing—a possibility, it seems, that Stout leaves open.

Thanks to Ms. Stout and all the other letter writers for their often moving comments.
 

A Plea from Fifth Avenue

To the editor:
Heather Mac Donald is certainly correct that post-Diallo criticism of the NYPD made this year's ill-policed Puerto Rican Day parade particularly unruly. [See "America's Best Urban Police Force," Summer 2000.] But for years now, the parade has been a horrible experience for all residents along its path. The parade as such may be a right, but the neighboring streets wind up utterly trashed. Gangs of aggressive youths cruise the area, sometimes abusing pedestrians.

Should not the parade take place in an area convenient to where the participants live and are known?

John Train
New York, NY

 

 


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