Saturday, October 01, 2005

On Bill Bennett

Reed Hundt tells A true story about Bill Bennett:
When I was chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (1993-97), I asked Bill Bennett to visit my office so that I could ask him for help in seeking legislation that would pay for internet access in all classrooms and libraries in the country. Eventually Senators Olympia Snowe and Jay Rockefeller, with the White House leadership of President Clinton and Vice President Gore, put that provision in the Telecommunications Law of 1996, and today nearly 90% of all classrooms and libraries do have such access. The schools covered were public and private. … More than 90% of all teachers praise the impact of such technology on their work. At any rate, since Mr. Bennett had been Secretary of Education I asked him to support the bill in the crucial stage when we needed Republican allies. He told me he would not help, because he did not want public schools to obtain new funding, new capability, new tools for success. He wanted them, he said, to fail so that they could be replaced with vouchers,charter schools, religious schools, and other forms of private education. Well, I thought, at least he's candid about his true views. … The Internet has been the first technology made available to students in poorly funded schools at about the same time and in about the same way as to students in well funded schools.
I haven't jumped on the Bill Bennett bandwagon. I think he's a hack and all, but he probably wasn't actually advocating genocide when he said:

But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.
He's just spit-balling, just pondering "what if." Hell, even the White House has condemned his statement; my piling on to criticize a compulsive gambler with a loose tongue couldn't make any difference.

The fact is, the Internet is the most powerful educational tool, the most powerful tool for equalizing opportunity, and Bill Bennett stood in the way. He'd prefer to keep poor kids poor, to deny them opportunities to learn and improve their lives to score cheap political points. That's not excusable.

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