OK, here's that 1985 Bill Bennett interview I alluded to when he was Secretary of Education. We were in his office for this conversation -- JL
BILL BENNETT DEFENDS STATIST EDUCATION, EVOLUTION, AND HOMOSEXUALS TEACHING OUR KIDS
Q: What is a nice man like you doing in a job like this, a job and a department Ronald Reagan promised repeatedly he would abolish? But, instead, the president has increased your department’s budget by over 50 percent since 1983, from $10 billion to $15.5 billion in 1986. Why isn’t this joint abolished?
A: Can’t be. Politically, it can’t be. The president came in in the 1980 election, everybody with him. Big Reagan election. Votes on the Hill for the abolition of the department, in the Senate, numbered something like eight to 10. There’d be fewer votes today. It’s a good question whether we need a Department of Education. In fact, this department is not necessary. But it’s here. And there doesn’t seem any likely prospect of getting rid of it. As long as it’s here, let’s make the best use of it.
Q: Would you urge the president to try again to abolish your department?
A: Yes, if it looked like that was a political possibility. If not, I wouldn’t waste my time on it. I would rather suggest that the department be used to further the president’s goals and aims, as we’re trying to do.
Q: Would you urge the president go all out to abolish your department?
A: I don’t think so because it wouldn’t be worth it in terms of priorities, time and energy. There are some things that we are doing that are reasonably effective in furthering the president’s goals. And balancing that against the likelihood of abolition I think we shouldn’t waste energy on that right now.
Q: What should the purpose of education be?
A: Education, not this department? Education generally?
Q: That’s an interesting distinction. But, yes, education generally.
A: I think it is pretty much as Thomas Jefferson said, and others, to nurture and enhance the wit and character of the young.
Q: In his book “Heretics,” G.K. Chesterton said the most practical and important thing about a man is his view of the universe. What is your view of the universe?
A: Which part? Can I disaggregate that question a little bit?
Q: Far be it from me to limit your answer.
A: If we reframe it as Eformer Supreme Court Justice Benjamin] Cardozo’s point, he said the most important thing about a judge is his philosophy. I don’t think much about the universe. It’s just not something that occupies me so much. If you reframe the question to what about life, or what is your philosophy of life, I’d be more comfortable with it.
Q: You don’t understand what Chesterton was saying?
A: Oh, I think I do.
Q: Then why not take a swing at it? The question is repeated.
A: [ five-second pause.] I can’t get my arms around it [ question]. I guess the part of the universe I tend to focus most attention on is human beings and their aspirations. And I think, with Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, that life has a purpose. And one of the purposes for human beings, as I’ve said, is the development of their intellectual and moral capacities. And society should further that as best as it can.
Q: In a recent talk at the Library of Congress about adult literacy you noted that we are a people of the word and that we cherish a heritage that includes the book of books, which I assume, was an illusion to the Bible.
Q: But, in fact, in our public schools we don’t cherish this heritage at all. Unlike what was done throughout most of our educational history, the Bible is no longer taught as the truth, the source of all wisdom, ethics, right and wrong. And woe unto the public school teacher who uses the Lord’s name in a context other than in vain. Question: Can a child really be considered educated if he doesn’t know God or God’s word? What, in your judgernent, has been the impact of removing God and His word as the center of education in this country? And what can, indeed must, be done about this, if anything, in your judgement?
A: I don’t think we can say a child has been well- educated unless a child has been presented - usually be parents but it can be by others - with religious ideas and ideals.
Q: But I’m not talking about ‘religion’ or ‘religious ideas.’ I’m talking about God, the God of the Bible, His word.
A: Can a student be educated without knowing God? What do you mean by knowing God? That he must declare himself a believer? He must say: I do believe in God?
A: I guess I think, because of my own views, my own religious beliefs, that evidence of the universe, to use Chesterton’s word, the experience of mankind makes a very strong case for God. I don’t think that’s the final way a human being comes to religious commitment. I think it’s a matter of the heart, the will. A person can be educated without so acknowledging God as the center of the universe. But a person who is not at least introduced - either through the ideas of philosophers, theologians or through the simple faith of others - has been denied an important educational opportunity.
Q: What in your judgement, has been the impact of removing God as the center of public education in America?
A: Well, in many cases it is not true that God has been removed as the center of education in public schools. There is the kind of official view that there shall be no mention of God, that things having to do with God or particular religious beliefs will not be talked about in the classroom. But as you visit classrooms, you frnd that this isn’t the case. I visited schools this year, taught a lot of classes. In one of the
first schools we visited, in Shreveport [ we went into the public high school, I was welcomed. And then the superintendent called on a member of the community for a prayer. And just about everyone prayed. The press was there. No one stood up and screamed and objected. This was obviously something that was done fairly frequently. I don’t think this school was unusual. I think this takes place in lots of community gatherings. ... Arguably, what some of these people are doing is in violation of the holdings of the Supreme Court, but it goes on anyway. I just can’t take the conclusion that there is no acknowledgement of God in the public school classrooms, because there is.
Q: But there is no God-centered education. You’re not telling me you know the name of a public school in America where education is God-centered, where it is taught that God is the beginning of all wisdom and knowledge, are you?
A: No, I don’t. But on the other hand, there are many classrooms in America where teachers and principals talk unabashedly about their belief in God and how this belief sustains them. And they bear witness to that for all the children to see.
Q: But you’re not contesting, are you, that a majority of our history, public education in America - although it was different in the past - was God-centered and biblically based and this is no longer the case?
A: That’s right.
Q: So, what in your judgement has been the impact on removing this Godly foundation from American public education? Has there been an impact?
A: Yes. Let me put it this way. I think the undue squeamishness about things religious - what I have called the fastidious disdain for religion - has hurt the public schools. And where I think the impact is centered is in the whole question of values.
The American people do expect their children to become better, in a moral sense, as a result of education. When a school decides that it will not, or should not, foster doctrinal adherence, and moves from that to saying that all questions of values having to do with personal behavior are related to religion and therefore, must be avoided, it shoots itself in the foot. And what it does is encourage parents to take their children elsewhere.
I’ve said a number of times that consistent with a concern for religious freedom, the schools do not have to be so squeamish and fastidious about avoiding things religious.
Q: Can you list one or two things you think have happened as a result of God being removed from the center of education, as I described it earlier?
A: There’s no such thing as a moral vacuum in this sense: If you do not present children with notions of right or wrong that are neither religiously based or based on tradition derived from religion, you’re going to have a notion of values that comes from somewhere else. So, instead of a theory and practice of morality - which informs pedagogy and curriculum - that is derived from the traditions of this society, what you have in a lot of cases is moral relativism and ethical relativism which is a disaster.
Q: Don’t we really have an established religion in the public schools, and isn’t it atheism?
A: No, I don’t think it is. Again, I have trouble saying ‘in the public schools.’ If you take the pronouncements of some groups like American United and generalize from what they say is a description of the public schools, that would be right. But you can’t generalize.
Q: Well, you either teach God or no God, don’t you?
Q: You have a kid who, on the average, is in a public school for about 15,000 hours. And if he’s hearing not one word about God being true, real and the center of all knowledge, how does this differ from atheism? The atheists don’t want God or Christ taught as the center of education. And they aren’t, in the public schools. Isn’t this the de facto atheist position?
A: Well, the question is: Is it simply one way or the other? Look, I think there are people in the schools who are hostile to religious belief. But I think, again, in most of the schools I know - although there have been serious intellectual mistakes made about what we can and cannot teach and what the First Amendment allows
- no, I can’t say this is atheism in the schools.
Q: Then what is it? How does it differ from atheism?
A: It’s a kind of - I’d have to know the situation. I see very different situations in different schools.
Q: Really? I thought we already agreed that you know of no public school in America where God or
Christ is taught as the center of truth.
A: Right. I don’t see that. But, after that, I see...
Q: But, from a Christian perspective, this is
A: No, I think atheism is to deny God, to deny
Q: But isn’t it a denial of God when you don’t teach Him as the source of all truth during 15,000 hours of class time?
A: I don’t think it is. It may be a backing off, a certain agnosticism which is unnecessary, but I don’t think it’s atheism.
Q: Well, yes, I would say that not mentioning God for 15,000 hours would be a certain backing off.
A: I would say that in most schools, for 15,000 hours, you would not find very many where God is not mentioned.
Q: But I’m not talking about not mentioning God. I’m talking about His not being taught as the center of all wisdom and knowledge, which is what the Scripture says He is.
A: Well, that is not done in the public schools.
Q: One occasionally hears, although less so, the question: Can the private school survive? But Dr. R.J. Rushdoony asks in his book “Intellectual Schizophrenia: Culture, Crisis and Education” what he calls the more basic question: Has the statist school any right to survive? And if so, why? Because, as he points out, the statist school gives no image of man which gives function and structure to society. And since the statist school depends on taxes, it is dedicated for the most part, to self-advantage rather than function?
A: It [ statist school] has a right to survive if it is good, if it does its job to nurture and enhance the wit and character of the Young. Some do, some don’t.
Q: But under the present system the statist school is not subject to any sort of survival market mechanism.
A: Oh yes it is.
Q: Baloney! The statist school is supported by tax dollars that continue to flow. Do you know of any public school that went out of business because it was a lousy school? I don’t.
A: Yeah, yeah. There are some. That magnet school in Shreveport.
Q: But it was an exception rather than the rule, wasn’t it?
A: Well, probably, sure.
Q: But my question is not about the right of individual statist schools to survive, but the right of a statist school, per se, to survive.
A: A right? It’s not a Constitutional right. An absolute right? I can’t see any constitutional protection here, should it survive is the question, and my answer is: It should survive if it does the job.
Q: But my question is: Do statist schools have the right to exist at all.
A: Rights. rights, rights.. Where’s the right laid down anywhere? I don’t think it gets you anywhere to say it doesn’t have a right. The question is: Is this an efficient and sound way to educate people? When the common school was set up , it wasn’t set up as something following from the Constitution.
Q: It sure as hell -wasn’t. And common schools weren’t set up as statist schools either.
Q: And this is the point. As Sam Blumenfeld, author of “N.E.A.: The Trojan Horse in American Education,” has noted, public education, as we know it today, did not begin until the mid-part of the last century. And the idea of state-owned and controlled educational systems did not originate in the United States but was imported from Prussia, where an authoritarian monarchy used centralized statist schools for its own political and social purposes. This being the case, why do statist schools have any right to survive?
A: Right to exist, again, doesn’t get us anywhere. Should it exist? Is it an efficient way of educating young people?
Q: But we know the answer to these questions and it is: No, it isn’t.
A: Some of them are, some of them aren’t.
Q: But, on balance, it isn’t.
A: We aren’t doing as good ajob as we should. But do I think we should have public schools? Yes.
A: Because I believe in the public school and most Americans believe...
Q: But why? Obviously, you believe in it. But why?
A: Because it’s a way for us to do a number of things. First, it should be an effective and efficient way to educate the young. Second, we believe in the old idea of the common school, where all our children go from
various communities and families and we have an education in common principles, common beliefs.
Q: But you say ‘we.’ Speak for yourself. I don’t believe in this. And millions of other Americans also don’t believe in this, which is why they are getting out of the public schools.
A: About 90 percent of Americans do. And the 12 percent who send their children to private schools - many will tell you they would prefer to send their children to a public school, but they’re not happy with the public schools. I think that if the public schools come back in the way they should, you will see the number of people who send their kids to private schools going down, not up.
Q: I his book “Compelling Belief: The Culture of American Schooling,” Stephen Arons, director of the Department of Legal Studies at the University of Massachusetts, writes that the “present structure of education in America is broadly inconsistent with First Amendment principles” because government is imposing the content of schooling, and this is “the same threatening agent of repression for which the framers of the Constitution sought to free themselves.” He suggests that the only solution to the growing conflict in the public schools about values and beliefs is “a complete separation of school and state.” Why don’t you favor this?
A: I don’t think it’s possible.
Q: But we once had it!
A: I know, but we don’t have it now. It’s a different world. And you can’t take something that’s been around for a long time now, which is believed in by most Americans very strongly, and simply say throw it out. That’s why I’m not a part of that movement. I’m part of that movement that says restore our public schools to the position they once held. And to do things a little differently. And one of the reasons you can’t separate state and schooling is that local communities have to be involved in the governance and running of the school. And the local communities often manifest their will through governmental channels such as school boards and other things.
Q: But we did this before without having statist schools.
A: That’s fine.
Q: But why are you so defeatist as regards the idea of restoring and reconstructing the kind of educational system we had for the majority of the
history of our country?
A: I’m not defeatist. I think you can reconstruct and restore a lot of it. But we cannot do it with the goal of saying let’s separate state power (from schooling). We can’t do it that way. What we’re saying...
Q: But why not, if once we did it that way?
A: Well, you know, I just don’t think it’s
Q: I know. But why don’t you think it’s feasible?
A: Because people now have expectations that the local community, local government, will be involved, and state government. People do set up their own schools, and when they’re happy with them, that’s fine. But I think the general disposition of the American people is not to get rid of state involvement and local communities, but to use those as a way of reforming.
Q: Well, that certainly seems to be your general disposition, and I’m sorry it is. Let me ask you about Christian schools and home schools. What right do you think the state has to regulate these schools?
A: I think in either of those cases the state does have a minimal interest in assuring that (a) the institution is an educational institution, that something that calls itself educational really is - and that cuts a lot of ways, putting a great burden on all sorts of schools - and (b) that the so-called school is not being used as something else - that is, that you draw a distinction between the home schooler and the parent who wants to keep a kid out of a school to do something that doesn’t have anything to do with the child’s education.
Q: But we know that what the state calls a “minimal interest” has a way of growing into a larger interest. Are you saying the state has a right to test those who go to Christian and home schools, and if the kids don’t met the state’s testing qualifications, then the state can shut these schools down?
A: The reading test and the math test, yes. If enough of the kids are doing fine - reading at a level that is at least as good as the average in the rest of the state , however it is set up - that’s fine. Then you leave them alone.
Q: But you support the right of the state to set these testing standards?
Q: And is the Christian or home school falls
beneath the state’s testing standards, then the state has the right to close these schools down?
A: I would say if you have a private school, in the home or under the auspices of a church, and your failure rate for students falls below the average in the state, I think the state could close them down. Yeah, It’s not educating. Close it down.
Q: Does the state also have a right to pick the books to be used in and the subjects to be taught in these private schools?
Q: Where does the state acquire this “minimal interest” you assert? Education is not mentioned in our Constitution.
A: I can’t cite you the cases, but I remember studying it. The courts are involved and common law, too. Our own Supreme Court and some states. And it also comes from human experience. Most parents have the interest of their children foremost in mind. Some parents do not. Some parents abuse their children. The state has a right to protect those children from those parents.
Q: Who do you think the children belong to?
A: They don’t belong to anybody but themselves, really. But, in terms of the interest of the child, parents must be heeded unless it can be demonstrated that parents are acting in such ways that they are harming their children.
Q: But why would you defend the right of the state to set testing standards when one reason a lot of parents want to send their kids to private school is because they reject the state’s standards?
A: For the same reason that I send in the cops when I fmd out a kid has been locked in the closet for three months.
Q: But that’s a criminal act. Why do you liken home schools or Christian schools that are not state- tested to a criminal act?
A: No, educational abuse of children - if you’re not teaching your children what they need to know to survive in this world...
Q: Oh, you mean like in the public schools? Isn’t it child abuse when the public schools don’t educate our kids?
A: Well, that’s when it cuts both ways. That’s
Q: Do you want to send the cops into the public
Lofton Letter.....page 10
A: Sometimes I do.
Q: Have you done it since you’ve been secretary of education?
A: No, I don’t have the authority to do that. But, if a governor or state commissioner of education sees that a school is systematically deserving its students, the place should be closed down.
Q: But the threshold is: Who is to judge? Why do you want to put Caesar over the right of parents to choose their own form of education?
A: No, no. I didn’t say that. Parents should choose the form of education they want for their children.
Q: But the state should ultimately set the standards.
A: Minimal standards - such as you can read and you cannot. And that’s it.
Q: Have you ever tried to tell the state that’s it?
A: Some states are more self-restrained than others. You can say: Give the sate a little bit of power and it will want more...
Q: Yes, I would definitely say that.
A: But, this is one of the difficulties we have living in a democratic society. If you say the state can set no standards, then you’ve got worse problems.
Q: But we see what has happened to education when the state is setting all the standards, and it has been a disaster. But obviously, you still have a great deal of faith in the state.
A: No, no. I don’t agree with the premise. The general story of public education in the United States is a success. It is, if you look at the whole story, not at the last 20 years.
Q: In a talk to Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum this past September, you called for a restoration of “a coherent moral vision” to our public schools, but you said our schools “should not attempt to . . .support any one religion over another.” But, this view, in fact, lacks coherence. Morals and ethics are, ultimately, based on religious views. Thus, to attempt to restore a coherent moral vision to anything means, inescapably, to teach that some morals and ethics are right, some wrong, some are true, some are false, and therefore one religion must be supported over another. No?
A: No. You’ve got to make some distinctions here. That the values, beliefs and morals we hold as a
people are derived from one religious tradition is a fact. We can say that without embarrassment and we should.
Q: This used to be the case, but not any longer.
A: No, it’s still true. Don’t exaggerate the impact of the moral relativists.
Q: We still have the same morals and ethics of those who came over on the Mayflower?
A: Essentially, not so different, if you look at the American people.
Q: Oh, I do. I do. I go to a lot of shopping malls. And I don’t see a lot of Puritans there.
A: Don’t pay attention to the elites. And don’t pay attention to everything you read about the Puritans and the Pilgrims. They were sinners, too. We all are.
Q: True, but they didn’t make a career out of sin.
A: I bet a few did... But don’t say the American people are in crisis about this. Some of the elites are. But, for the most part, the American people aren’t.
Q: But what about my point. I morals and ethics come from religion - and right and wrong ought to be taught, as you say - then it must be taught one religion is right and what conflicts with it, is wrong. So, you have to support one religion over another.
A: What do you teach in the public school? Methodism? Presbyterianism? Which do you teach?
Q: You teach what’s true. And I’d like to know what you think that is?
A: I don’t think you advocate Methodism, Presbyterianism, Catholicism, or Judaism to students in public school. What you do advocate , however, is a theory and practice of values that is based on the Judaeo-Christian ethic and tradition. Sure.
Q: Well, good luck in trying that in a public school. Do you have a school in mind where you might want to try this out?
A: It’s done in a lot of places in lots of public schools, even though people say it’s not allowed.
Q: I don’t think it is. And I think the problem we face was summed up in a recent headline in the New York Times which read: “Ethics Classes Avoid teaching Right and Wrong.”
A: But some do. I’ve been in classes where teachers teach right and wrong in ways I think you would find very compatible. I talked to several groups of students about the Declaration of Independence, and those children believe it. These public school students believe that we are endowed by our Creator with certain
Lofton Letter... page 11
Q: But, unfortunately, you can’t tell them anything about our Creator in a public school.
A: I saw a couple of teachers do it.
Q: But I’m not denying that. at great peril to their careers, some public school teachers still defend the faith. My point is that this is the rule rather than the exception however. Do you believe that something that’s not true should be taught as truth?
Q: Do you believe evolution is true, that everything just happened, that life came from no-life, that we evolved from lower forms of animals?
A: I believe there is good scientific evidence for evolution.
Q: You do? So, you have no trouble with evolution being taught as truth in the public schools?
A: I have no trouble with it being taught as a scientific hypothesis which...
Q: But I’m talking about it being taught as being true.
A:Well, scientific truth is all about hypothesis and experiment. There are no capital T’s here in science. There is strong evidence and claims for it. It should be taught based on what evidence there is for it. And it should also be taught with a view toward what it doesn’t explain.
Q: I thought you were a Christian.
A: I’m a Catholic, yes, a Christian.
Q: But how is the evolutionary view compatible with the Christian view?
A: The church doesn’t have any problem with evolution as long as you don’t make any theological claims for it.
Q: But it can’t be said that something is God- created and also just happened. You can’t have purpose and meaningless.
A: That’s right, provided your claims are at the same level. That is, you cannot both claim, at the same time, that creation - sorry, begged the question - that the world went up in a big bang or that God created it. But, you have different modes of inquiry here. I don’t have any problem with it, with biologists.
Q: But you either believe that God created man, or that he evolved from some lower form of life. Which is it?
A: I believe both.
Q: But it can’t be both. Either God created man whole and mature, from dust, and breathed life into him, or he evolved from a lower form of life.
A: Nope. Even your theology isn’t very good
Q: You’re saying Darwin is compatible with the
A: Oh sure, I think so. Sure, I do. You bet. The Catholic Church hasn’t had any problem with this. What order of claim are you making? Are you making theological claims? See, I think people who teach evolution in school should be cautioned not to make metaphysical claims. That’s the problem.
Q: But either life was created by God, or it came from no life through randomness and happenstance. These are not the same thing.
A: Those are not mutually exclusive.
Q: The idea of God-created life and the evolutionary view that life came about through randomness and happenstance are the same thing? They are synonymous’?
A: No, it depends on what order of claim you are making.
Q: What does this mean? Either God created life, or it just happened.
A: Is it true that human beings, homo sapiens, are a collection of fluids and chemicals and molecules? Sure, it is. Is that all there is? No, that’s not all there is.
Q: But we’re talking about origins. Either things happened originally, ex nihio, - out of nothing - because God created them. Or, a bunch of glop swirled around and things just happened. But both of these things can’t be true.
A: Sorry, but your theology is deficient. What do we mean by creation?
Q: But you’ve read the Genesis account, haven’t
A: Yes, but I don’t know what a day is in
Q: But whatever we know about Genesis, we know that what happened wasn’t randomness or happenstance or chaos or meaninglessness, was it? God did it, right? That’s the Genesis account. And the Darwin account is that it all just happened.
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Q: In principle, I said. Don’t take it out of
A: We didn’t get all the blueprints, all the specifications. We didn’t get how all the mechanisms...
Q: But you’re ignoring the threshold question.
A: I don’t think I am.
Q:And I’m trying to get you out what are wild assertions that the God-created, biblical Genesis account, is the same as saying that it all just happened. How could they be the same? They are not the same thing.
A: That’s right. They’re not the same thing.
Q: Well, which do you believe?
A: I believe in God.
Q: Did He do anything?
A: Yes, yes. How He did it, I’m not sure. I don’t know and you don’t either.
Q: Well, you speak for yourself.
A: No, you don’t know, John. You may tell me what you believe, but you don’t really know.
Q: So, you can’t know through believing?
A: You can know some things through believing.
Q: Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?
A: Yes,I do.
Q: Why do you think the 10th point of Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifestowas a demand for state schools, for “free education for all children in public schools?”
A: Is that the 10th point of the “Communist Manifesto?”
Q: Yes, it is.
A: If it was, clearly for Marx and his fellow travelers, the greatest degree of control possible to the state of not only modes of production, but also modes of dissemination of information.
Q: I agree. But doesn’t this idea scare you?
A: Sure. There’s always a worry about state power. However, we’ve managed to deal with it much more effectively than have those who followed Marx.
Q: But, in principle, our public schools are exactly like Soviet public schools, aren’t they?
A: Don’t ever confuse our public schools with their public schools.
Q: But, in principle,they are identical: no God...
A: That just shows you the bluntness and insufficiency of your categories, if you equate our schools with their schools.
A: This is the last, best hope of earth, John. And even our public schools are part of that.
Q: I remember when the Polish communist govermnent tried to ban all crucifixes from being displayed in their public schools. And I thought: This is identical to what’s happened in our public schools.
A: But we have not extirpated religion from the life of this community.
Q: I’m talking about from our public schools only.
A: That’s right.... But don’t confuse the United States with Poland.
Q: In principle, we have all too much in common.
A: We’ve got the First Amendment. We respect and honor it. And we are a religious people. We are a religious people and we manifest our religious beliefs.
Q: Ah, and so were the Romans and the Greeks! And that’s what St. Paul said on Mars Hill [ touring Athens]. He told his audience that they were a religious people. The only problem was they didn’t know the real God. Don’t forget, this is a nation where it is now legal to murder millions of unborn babies. So, don’t ever think that our country can do no wrong.
A: I didn’t say that we don’t do any wrong.
Q: Then don’t give me this moral relativism bit about how we are better compared to Russia.
A: We are better!
Q: But how are we compared to God?
A: The heck, that’s moral relativism. That’s objectively demonstrable. If your categories are such that you can’t see that distinction any more - between us and the Soviet Union - you’ve got to spend less time in theology...
Q: But what scares me are our similarities! Literacy is something you are interested in. In reading, are you for the “look say” method or phonics?
A: I’m no expert, but the research tells us pretty persuasively that phonics has to be used early on, that it’s the most effective way.
Q: Would you recommend, as Sam Blumenfeld has, the mandating of the teaching of intensive phonics in the public schools?
A: We’re going to have our report out soon and...
Q: A report? You mean we don’t know enough
Lofton Letter...page 13
about phonics now?
A: Reports are very important for the secretary of education. They give me a microphone, a megaphone.
Q: Why in the world would you call the formation of Accuracy in Academia a bad idea, particularly since Howard Phillips, head of the Conservative Caucus, says that in a conversation with him and Reed Irvine [ of AlA] you were critical of those in academia who have criticized AlA, noting that those who express support for free inquiry and expression ought to tolerate critical evaluations of their own ideas?
A: Critical evaluations of their own ideas is fine. And that should be the ongoing life of the University. But hiring students as stoolies is silly, a bad idea.
Q: So you think these academics will reform themselves?
A: No, no, They need to be reformed by...
Q: But who’s going to watch them to pick them up on their lies and distortions?
A: Presidents, deans, provosts.
Q: How will they know?
A: Well, they should know. That’s their job.
Q: But what’s wrong with students monitoring professors and checking out their facts? And why do you call them stoolies?
A: Because it’s a silly idea. And I’m not the only conservative who thinks this. Midge Decter and Bob Tyrell agree. The main reason it is silly is that it’s the sort of thing that I hear from liberals when they o caricature conservatives. This is the kind od thing that discredits responsible conservatives.
Q: Well, I hope that one of the things conservatives do is try and find out if their professors lie and distort history. Certainly you agree there are professors who do this?
A: Absolutely. And I spent a good part of my academic career doing intellectual battle with these people, but I didn’t hire students
Q: What do you mean “hire?” Some of these monitors will already be in the classrooms.
A: And I didn’t hire them. I didn’t set up an outside group. What I did was to teach many of the same students who were in a class taught by a radical professor. We argued the ideas. And then I would argue
with the professor... The rise of conservative intellectuals in and around the academy has had a great effect on American thought.
Q: In a recent talk in New York you lamented the fact that a student can get a bachelor’s degree from 86 percent of our colleges without having studied the civilizations of classical Greece and Rome. And you included this area among the most important things a student should study in college. Why? What’s so great about these so-called civilizations? In his book, “The Ancient City: A Study on Religion, Laws and Institutions of Greece and Rome,” Fustel de Coulanges said of these so-called civilizations:
“The citizen was subordinate in everything, without any reserve, to the city. He belonged to it body and soul. The religion, pagan, which produced the state, and the state which supported the religion, sustained each other. There two powers formed a power almost superhuman to which the body and soul were equally enslaved. There was nothing independent in man. His body belonged to the state and was devoted to its defense.” Why are you so high on these so - called civilizations? They were terrible!
A: In some ways they were. But, nevertheless, many of the ideas which came out of Greece and Rome are the ideas which sustained through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and are seminal to our own political institutions. I can read Aristotle and have my students read Aristotle without condoning slavery. In fact, I don’t know anybody who teaches Aristotle who condones slavery. He did, But...
Q: Well, we all make mistakes.
A: Yes, we do make mistakes. And he made a big one on that one. Nevertheless, these are the ideas which - if you want to understand the United States, our principles of government and what our founders are talking about, you’ve got to read the Greeks.
Q: But about this statistic: 100 percent of our students can get a bachelor’s degree without studying Christianity, much less having to believe in Christ. Does this bother you?
A: Oh, I don’t think you should require a course in Christianity. But if you study the humanities, you’ll study Christianity.
Q: But you’re bothered that the students can get a bachelor’s degree without knowing about the Greeks and the Romans.
A: The fact that they don’t have to know about
Lofton Letter.. .page 15
Q: Then why didn’t you write this into your voucher plan? Why didn’t you say that public schools that don’t meet certain requirements cannot get vouchers? You didn’t do this, did you?
A: No. What we’ve done, in effect, is say that the parent can make that decision.
Q: But you’ve already set some eligibility [ letting the IRS determine which private schools are eligible]. Why not say that schools that don’t meet certain testing requirements don’t get your vouchers?
A: Why do you want to give more power to the State on that?
Q: But you’re the one who defends the right of the State to define which private schools are eligible.
A: States, I suppose, could do that.
Q: But why haven’t you said it --- that any school that doesn’t pass a certain test level will not get our vouchers?
A: I don’t think I should be setting that sort of rule. It’s redundant. Because when you give parents the choice, as we’re doing, and the school fails, the parent will pull the kid out.
Q: Then do you think it would be a good idea for the states to set a test level which, if a school falls below it, it cannot get your voucher?
A: It’s an idea worth considering. You’ve got to take into account all the differing factors. You’re dealing with some schools where you can’t expect the kids’ scores to be as high as in other areas. But it’s not a bad idea.
Q: But part of the voucher idea is to encourage competition and incentives.
Q: So, why not --- since you didn’t shrink from proposing the voucher idea from Washington --- set standards which, is state schools fall below them, don’t get your vouchers?
A: The states can do that.
Q: But why didn’t you propose it?
A: I don’t have any schools.
Q: Last year, I learned that the National Education’s Professional Library in Westhaven, Connecticut, was distributing a booklet for use in the classroom titled “Homophobia In Education: How To Deal With Name-Calling.” The point of this booklet, which I am happy to say was withdrawn after I wrote a
column about it, was that the real sin is homophobia
that is the intolerance towards homosexuals --- not homosexuality, which was likened to being left-handed or black or white or a man or a woman. Do you think this is a proper document to use in the classroom?
A: If I were on a school board or a curriculum committee, I wouldn’t advocate it for use in the classroom, no.
Q: Do you think being homosexual is like being left-handed?
A: Is this a riddle’? No, it’s different.
Q: Should homosexuals be allowed to teach in public schools?
A: Yeah, some should. I was taught by some. It shouldn’t be prohibited.
Q: So, being a homosexual shouldn’t be grounds for dismissal?
A: If they proselytize, sure.
Q: Do you think being a homosexual says anything about a person’s character?
A: Sometimes.Q: I thought you are a Christian, a Catholic.
A: I am.
Q: What is Catholic teaching on homosexuality?
A: It’s a sin.
Q: So, it doesn’t bother you if homosexuals teach our kids?
A: Should sinners be allowed to teach? Yeah.
Q: I’m talking about practicñig sinners.
A: Well, most of us are practicing sinners.
Q: No, no, no, no. You can’t be a practicing sinner and be a Christian.
A: Oh yes you can.http://www.theamericanview.com/forums/showthread.php?p=34204#post34204