Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Administrative Asininity

The Drudge Report links us to this Reuters News article which simply confirms Viewpoint's claim yesterday that examples of bone-headed public school administrative decisions seem to be proliferating across the nation at an alarming pace.

Unless there's a lot more to this story than what we're told, the California elementary school principle in question is evidently not one of the brighter luminaries in the scholastic firmament.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California teacher has been barred by his school from giving students documents from American history that refer to God -- including the Declaration of Independence.

Steven Williams, a fifth-grade teacher at Stevens Creek School in the San Francisco Bay area suburb of Cupertino, sued for discrimination on Monday, claiming he had been singled out for censorship by principal Patricia Vidmar because he is a Christian.

"It's a fact of American history that our founders were religious men, and to hide this fact from young fifth-graders in the name of political correctness is outrageous and shameful," said Williams' attorney, Terry Thompson.

"Williams wants to teach his students the true history of our country," he said. "There is nothing in the Establishment Clause (of the U.S. Constitution) that prohibits a teacher from showing students the Declaration of Independence."

Vidmar could not be reached for comment on the lawsuit, which was filed on Monday in U.S. District Court in San Jose and claims violations of Williams rights to free speech under the First Amendment.

Phyllis Vogel, assistant superintendent for Cupertino Unified School District, said the lawsuit had been forwarded to a staff attorney. She declined to comment further.

Williams asserts in the lawsuit that since May he has been required to submit all of his lesson plans and supplemental handouts to Vidmar for approval, and that the principal will not permit him to use any that contain references to God or Christianity.

Among the materials she has rejected, according to Williams, are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, George Washington's journal, John Adams' diary, Samuel Adams' "The Rights of the Colonists" and William Penn's "The Frame of Government of Pennsylvania."

"He hands out a lot of material and perhaps 5 to 10 percent refers to God and Christianity because that's what the founders wrote," said Thompson, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund, which advocates for religious freedom. "The principal seems to be systematically censoring material that refers to Christianity and it is pure discrimination."

We'd doubtless have more examples tomorrow of administrative asininity except there's no school for the next four days. All the administrators will be home solemnly giving thanks to John Dewey or Horace Mann, or Alfred Kinsey, or somebody, before they carve into their turkeys.

A Revolutionary President

Charles Krauthammer has an interesting piece on why George Bush's second term is unique in recent presidential history and why Bush has an opportunity to be among the most consequential presidents ever. The gist of it is here:

There is an unusual feature to the second Bush Administration that is extraordinarily important but has been almost entirely overlooked. For the first time in a half-century, a two-term presidency will end without sending out its Vice President to seek a mandate for succession at the next election. Vice President Cheney will not run for the presidency, and everyone knows it. When these eight years are over, the Bush-Cheney Administration will simply close up shop.

[T]he fact that Bush-Cheneyism will never have to seek popular ratification again gives Bush unique freedom of action. Which, in the hands of a President with unusually ambitious goals, will yield perhaps the most energetic - to some, the most dangerous - presidency of our lifetime. Bush is fully aware of his situation. Hence the remarkable alacrity with which, after the election, he seized the moment. No two-month vacation to unwind. No waiting for the January Inauguration to set the agenda. He waited but two days to lay claim not just to victory but to a mandate.

Then, even more audacity. He not only claimed his mandate. He defined it right on the spot. Seizing the third rail of American politics, he promised to reform Social Security with, at minimum, partial privatization. He then added his intention to radically redo the tax code - which includes entertaining such ideas as entirely abolishing the Internal Revenue Service by going to a national sales tax. You cannot get more radical than that. His subsidiary aims, earthshaking in any other context but almost minor in this one, are kneecapping the lawsuit industry with serious tort reform and installing a conservative judiciary that will long outlive his presidency.

[T]he President is taking control of his government. In a country where the bureaucracy is so entrenched that the government is often at war with itself, that is revolutionary. As is the man in charge. Bush is marshaling his forces for the single-minded pursuit of a foreign policy rooted in a radical idea: the spread of democracy, particularly in the Middle East. That means unrelenting pursuit of the war on terrorism and no flinching on Iraq. Those who thought a re-elected Bush might reverse course and seek an exit strategy have been sobered by everything that has happened since Election Day.

This sounds like the next four years will be fun to watch, unless you're a Democrat - or an Islamist.

The Darwinians and John Kerry

Thomas Woodward, writing for Christianity reviews the cover story on Darwinian evolution in the recent National Geographic. Woodward's review implicitly illuminates the Darwinians' strategy for dealing with the competing theory known as Intelligent Design. The strategy seems to be: Ignore it as if it doesn't exist as long as possible, and, when it must be mentioned, simply declare that it has been thoroughly discredited.

This strategy removes both the necessity of actually having to confront the arguments raised by ID advocates and avoids publicizing the fact that such arguments exist. Very clever.

It sounds quite a lot, though, like the strategy the Kerry campaign adopted to deal with the Swift Vet allegations. The tactic worked poorly for the senator, and it remains to be seen how well it will serve the Darwinians. We suspect that they will find what Senator Kerry found: Unless you actually explain why your opponents' criticisms are wrong, people just are not going to believe you when you insist that they are.