Letter: School politics

Friday’s column by Mr. Bambenek was wrong on so many levels. For starters, the Center for Defense Information noted the FY ’03 discretionary military budget was $396 billion, while education was $52 billion. Unfortunately, I couldn’t locate mandatory spending totals, so maybe Mr. Bambenek is ultimately correct. Regardless, I agree that money management needs improvement. However, with two family members in the field of elementary education, I can confidently say that much of the mismanagement is at the local and state levels, not federal.

I also agree that schools shouldn’t force any ideology. The goal of education is to open minds, not close them. However, Mr. Bambenek’s vitriolic, conservative remarks were inappropriate and hypocritical. So what’s the point of lambasting public schools for alleged intolerance of Christian Fundamentalism and endorsing a system that could effectively shut down many public schools, forcing parents to send their children to religious schools that are often openly intolerant of anything non-Christian?

Next, Mr. Bambenek’s reference to impoverished African Americans and New Orleans demonstrated deplorable ignorance. So what are poor, inner-city minority families supposed to do with school vouchers? Throw their kids in their SUV and drive them to a private school outside their neighborhood on their leisurely drive to work? This just demonstrates that some conservatives – even after the New Orleans disaster – still can’t fathom the realities of poverty.

I’m sorry, but the school voucher program will do little but deal a crushing blow to education and hand victory over to blind, Christian faith. To me, the entire movement seems like a masked attempt by Christian Fundamentalists to bypass the courts so that children can attend schools that mandate school-led prayer and refuse to teach evolution legally. The economics may be good, but the ethics – like much of conservatism – is greatly lacking.

Alex Dunkel

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