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U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett (left) confers with his chief of staff, William Kristol, in the latter's office.
of the bureaucracy and empowering
teachers and principals. These are primari-
ly local issues — but we have tried to sup-
port the forces of reform and strengthen
those forces at a state and local level."
In a way, Kristol suggests a curious kind
of inversion of previous notions of reform.
In the '50s and '60s, power flowed towards
the federal government as a way of improv-
ing education in places where local
authorities were unwilling or unable to pro-
vide adequate services — or where
minorities were being systematically
deprived of quality education.
Now, intellectual conservatives like
Kristol have allied wit' , Christian funda-
mentalists in demanding a return to local
control — in the interests of improving
Supporters of this brand of reform insist
that only local control can return the
schools to the "basics" curriculum that
was tossed overboard by a burgeoning
education establishment; opponents argue
that the process will bring back the huge
disparities of earlier days. Local control in
places like White Plains, N.Y. will not
necessarily mean the same thing as local
control in rural Mississippi.
Local control, these critics fear, may also
bring back programs and policies that dis-
criminated against various minorities —
including Jews. The school prayer issue is
the most frequently cited example.
Kristol acknowledges that the "educa-
tion reform" movement that he and Ben-
nett have helped create sometimes makes
Jews uneasy, but he insists that these fears
"There are different aspects to this," he
says. "Jews have traditionally been in favor
of higher standards, of some discipline in
the schools. They have always favored the
kind of core, liberal-arts curriculum that we
"In many respects, what the educational
reform movement is doing is trying to
make sure that every kid gets the kind of
education that Jewish kids in upper
middle-class suburbs get. Frankly, the
problem is that in those suburbs, you have
Jewish parents who insist on educational
quality in the basic areas like math,
science, history and English. Unfortunate-
ly, in too many other schools, you don't
have the same kind of involvement, and
this has contributed to the slide."
The department's emphasis on "moral
education," he says, is another factor con-
tributing to the gap between Bennett and
the Jewish community.
"The issue of what the Secretary has
called the 'Three Cs' — content, character,
and choice — and the relation of these
things to religion are tricky. Because of an
effort to read proselytization out of the
schools, we've gone too far the other way.
We've taken religion out of American
history, for example. That's just bad
history, and bad education. It's proper to
acknowledge the importance of religion,
and the values that derive from religion, in
Bennett's concept of "moral literacy,"
Kristol says, is based on the broad Judeo-
Christian heritage of the nation, not on any
particular religion. But since Christianity
is still the religion of the majority — and
since a major goal of the department has
been the reemphasis of local control of
schools — it seems inevitable that this
moral curriculum would have a distinctly
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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS