Public Education: NYC’s Joel Klein Putting Children First

Let's start with full disclosure: I have known Joel Klein for nearly 30 years and consider him to be one of the smartest, most grounded, most public-spirited people I have ever known — right up there with the other two old friends I would include in that characterization, Bill and Hillary Clinton.

In 2002, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg exhibited his well-known impressive powers of persuasion and political boldness by convincing Mr. Klein, a former Clinton White House deputy counsel and assistant attorney general for antitrust, to leave a seven-figure job as chief executive of an international corporation and become chancellor of the New York City public school system, which pays less than one-tenth of that.

The Old College Try

The president said an interesting and important thing in his speech last night. He called for more people to go to college: “That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

The jobless rate for people with a college degree is well below 5 percent. The jobless rate for people without a college degree is well above 5 percent.

Less Government is the Answer

Promising every person in America a college education will not necessarily solve our talent dilemma.

As it stands now, we are forced to either export many of our technical industries abroad or rely on a broken immigration bureaucracy to import talent to America. Meanwhile, the rest of the developed world and much of the developing world has far surpassed America in developing the math and science talent needed to keep us competitive.

Assuring that everyone, irrespective of talent or dedication, can have access to a college education does not solve this problem. Rather, imposing rigorous standards in early education assures that students’ talents and abilities are nurtured and honed before they reach the college level.

Rational Drinking Policy

Several college presidents are calling for a lower drinking age, as reported in a front-page story in The Washington Post (“Lower Drinking Age Is Criticized”):

“On the face of it, the notion seems counterintuitive, but to the Presidents of some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges, it makes a lot of sense: Lowering the legal drinking age might get students to drink less. But any chance for the academic leaders to begin a public discussion of their theory — that allowing people as young as 18 to drink legally might promote moderation — has been lost in a wave of criticism from health experts, transportation officials, government leaders and opponents of drunk driving.”

Educating College Athletes

When my college alma mater, Syracuse University, won college basketball’s Final Four several years ago, I was proud of the team and especially its star, Carmelo Anthony. I discussed a book on Syracuse basketball with Coach Jim Boeheim. Anthony left college after one year and his MVP performance in that Final Four. Since then, he’s had an athletically impressive and lucrative career playing professional basketball in Denver.

I felt less pride reading his quoted remark in The Washington Post Sports section last Sunday. Anthony commented about his slump in the Beijing Olympics, where he and his superstar teammates are blazing the competition. The Post quoted Anthony: “I was asked, where has my offense went? It ain’t go nowhere.”

Wake Forest’s Nathan O. Hatch Does the Right Thing

Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., doesn’t like to conspicuously make waves. It is not in the desired nature of this region in the heart of the South. But several weeks ago this venerable old Southern institution got big headlines when it announced that it intended to drop SATs as mandatory for incoming freshmen in an effort to ease stress on student test takers.

First commentary was that it was a big mistake. But Wake Forest President Nathan O. Hatch was right to drop mandatory SATs. Others will soon follow.

Wake Forest usually comes to mind up here in New England when either Maya Angelou, who teaches there, is mentioned, or Arnold Palmer, who, like a bunch of other great golfers, went to school there.

Looking for a Few Good Fathers

Life 50 years ago moved at a slower, but nonetheless progressive, pace. The use of drugs was heavily looked down upon. Young ladies during that era would have been banned and shamed for dressing and acting promiscuously. It was demanded of young men to have respect for themselves and those around them. Family values played a major part in shaping the lives of the next generation, and our parents were our early models for God. Their unconditional love taught their offspring about the cruel and challenging world they would eventually face. Equally important, parents were the first line of support for their emotional needs, basic values and various norms. From such interactions, a child’s personality and character were formed.

Mandatory Military Service After High School

It was just reported that three-quarters of high school students in Detroit and Cleveland have dropped out of high school because they sense that a high school diploma serves them no purpose. This is a trend that is beginning to sweep across America's inner cities. Many experts are just stunned and overwhelmed about the implications of this development.

Why do we assume that young people today know what work ethic, discipline, sacrifice, moral striving and overcoming challenges in life is about? There is an overwhelming number of adults today who have never been taught these concepts and continue to set this example at home before their kids.

America's only chance of putting the genie back in the bottle is mandatory two-year military service immediately following high school for young men across the board (with no possibility of these youngsters ever serving in combat unless it's their choice). I have often advocated, in speeches around the country, that there should be conscription service for all high school students (men and women) after graduation.

What Are We Teaching Our Second-Graders?

What is going on in this country when a second-grader gets suspended for drawing a picture of a gun? Why would you punish a child when he draws a picture of what he sees and hears on a daily basis? Should 7-year-old Kyle Walker be suspended for the misdeeds of Hollywood that consistently depict sex and corruption; when our own country is at war; and not to mention the many shootings that have occurred on college campuses here in the United States? The Dennis Township Primary School officials should be ashamed of themselves and Kyle’s family should sue Cape May County, N.J., for allowing the suspension to happen.

Free Speech is Disappearing from American Campuses

If you want to understand the deplorable condition of free speech on college campuses today, you need look no further than what happened recently at George Washington University here in the nation’s capital. A recognized campus conservative group, Young America’s Foundation (full disclosure: I am on the board of directors), was planning to host a seminar, entitled “Islamo Fascist Awareness Week," which was to highlight the threat that radical Islam poses to the United States. Say what you will about the title, which was provocative, this is tame stuff compared to the anti-Bush, anti-American drumbeat of conferences and seminars that are held every day at GW and elsewhere.