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August 14, 2006 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2006-08-14

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The Michigan Daily - Monday, August 14, 2006 - 5

Give up on public schools?

My SUV gets good gas mileage

As both a prod-
uct of the District of
Columbia's public
school system and
a believer in pub-
lic schools, I must
bring light to a few
of the misinformed
points John Stiglich
made in his column
(Wake up and smell the coffee, 08/07/06).
The impetus of Stiglich's argument is
money - plain and simple. But the issue
ofpublic education is inextricably meshed
with numerous other factors. In that vein,
it should be noted that public schools in
Washington D.C. have had cases of cor-
ruption, resulting in the loss of money
intended to improve education. Instances
such as these are the rotten apples devour-
ing the rest of the barrel.
The most obvious fact is that our public
school teachers are paid next to nothing.
There is a bare amount of financial secu-
rity in teaching, which creates a signifi-
cant vacuum in teacher quality. If money
for education is siphoned offfor vouchers,
teachers will inevitably make even less,
furthering the downward spiral. Admit-
ting defeat over public education - when
it so happens that America's educational
system was once the envy of the world
- is defeatist and ignorant of the societal
foundation of public education.
Unfortunately, for all I can discern, Sti-
glich calls for the elimination of education
from our taxes. What if - to continue
his ridiculous metaphor - those people
who go to Starbucks can't afford Dunkin
Donuts? Do we as taxpayers ignore the
underprivileged ofour country? Or do we
chalk it allup to fate, and hope those with-
out the means to take advantage of vouch-
ers will eventually "get it"?
It should also be noted that most D.C.
public schools are equipped with secu-
rity guards, metal detectors and x-ray
machines. Stiglich ignores the significance
of the large number of murders that occur
in and around them. In order to protect stu-
dents, the government must find the funds
to pay for such security measures. So in the
case of D.C. public schools (and inner-city
schools in general), the issue of the qual-
ity of education is mixed with the issue of
crime and its debilitating effect on youth.
With all this crime and corruption,
many will argue that our educational sys-
tem is beyond repair. That conclusion is a
slap in the face of our nation's youth. My
highschool, Woodrow Wilson SeniorHigh
' lAsQW~tE

School, while not epitomizing ideal public
education, had a base of devoted parents
and students who kept standards (and stan-
dardized test scores) relatively high. While
the teachers were just as underpaid as those
intheinner city, and eventhoughstreet vio-
lence touched the lives of several students,
the school presented a viable educational
opportunity, one that can be replicated
in underachieving public schools across
* America unless we give up on them.
The climate surrounding a public
school is as vital as the resources inside.
Condemning the failings of our public
school system solely on the product con-
sistently ignores other important issues
that cause the problem and that must be
resolved. Parents, teachers and students
need to be involved in their schools. When
the irrepressible atmosphere of crime and
poverty masks everything else, how can
our schools hope to prosper?
Does Stiglich honestly believe every
private school out there will have enough
room for every student who wants a spot in
abetter school? Because small classes are
a major selling point for private schools,
they will only be able to admit an insig-
nificant handful of students. If Stiglich's
solution is implemented, not only will the
cycle of educational disenfranchisement
continue, but those caught in its grip will
still have no chance of "eaming" a spot at
a college. But hey, as long as the taxpayer
is losing a little bit less every April, that
doesn't matter, right?
Since the thought of taxpayers paying
for so faulty a service is galling to Stiglich,
perhaps he should write his next column
about the billions of dollars the government
loses on various military projects, and the
stalled misfire in Iraq we have to show for
it. As stated in The New Yorker (Unsafe
at Any Price, 07/07/06, 07/14/06), "A few
years ago, the Pentagon's own Inspector
General found that more than a $1 trillion
in spending simply couldn't be explained.:
Every dollar taxed from the public
should be spent with 100percent efficien-
cy. But to single out education as need-
ing reform ignores not only the crucial
need for accessible, quality public educa-
tion, but also the more glaring oversights
involving our tax dollars. The education
of youth is the most vital need any nation
faces. The mark of a culture will only
endure with time if each generation is
brought up with the education to improve
upon those who came before.
Klein is the current managing
arts editor. He can be reached at
,, << Do you think that
the U.S. and Israeli
intention and goal by
attacking Lebanon is
pulling the trigger for
another world war?"
- Apoll questiofrom
IranianPresident Mahmoud
Ahmedinejad, on his new blo, as
reportedSunday by Reuters.

Bush suc-
completed the first
of 12 steps to treat
the country's- oil
dependency out-
lined in his State of
the Union address
earlier this year
by announcing "America is addicted to
oil." But like many people in 12-step
programs, he has struggled with mov-
ing beyond the "admitting you have a
problem" stage. Since the address in
late January, Bush has kept the country
glued on the first step - making little
advancement in dealing with the oil-
aholic this country has become. And
while remedying the problem requires
the efforts of all Americans, the cultural
shift needed to reduce dependency on oil
- and thus cars - has to begin with the
Bush administration.
As of late, it appears as if many people
still don't realize that America's extreme
dependency on oil - foreign or domestic
- cannot last forever. It would seem that
gas prices doubling over the past couple
of years and endless news coverage of the
country's "energy crisis" would be enough
to convince Americans that consuming
oil at the rates they have in the past can-
not continue. And even though 55 percent
of Americans say they have decreased the
amount of miles they drive due to higher
gas prices - as reportedby the New York
Times last week - these statistics have
not translated to reduced consumption of
gasoline around the nation, which shows
As bad as the

many Americans are still not convinced.
This astonishing point is where the
Bush administration comes into play.
So far, Washington has given in to
America's oil obsession, and instead of
putting federal funding toward railways
or research for alternatives, it has only
managed to write more fuel-efficiency
laws and send automakers on a race for
the new best "fuel-flex" vehicle.
While this is significant progress for
an administration that, less than three
years ago, created a tax deduction policy
that encouraged the purchase of large,
inefficient sports utility vehicles for
small businesses, creating fuel efficiency
standards and quotas for carmakers' new
models does not do much to attack the
real problem. (In fact, these standards
can have the reverse effect because com-
panies like General Motors and Ford
end up making both vehicles that can
run on alternative fuels and continue to
design mammoth SUVs.) So instead of
just focusing on creating more resource-
ful vehicles, there needs to be much
stronger encouragement for Americans
to kick the car habit.
But while the future for this approach
looks hopeless, simple solutions are in
store for the administration to start a cul-
tural revolution. Specifically, more federal
money should go toward alternative trans-
portation methods like mass transit. A
profound move was already made by the
administration for fiscal year 2007 when
it designated $900 million for Amtrak.
While it's not nearly as much as the rail-
way received from the Senate Appropria-
tions Committee in 2005,it's a 100 percent
Nazis? Really

increase from what it received in 2006.
Other solutions include flowing money
into the construction of elevated railways
for cities lacking public transportation
(Detroit) instead of using that money to
add more lanes to city highways.
So as the newest chapter in America's
oil dilemma starts with the shutdown of
Alaska's Prudhoe Bay oil field and the
price of U.S. crude oil threatens to climb
to almost $100 a barrel in the next year
- up from merely $20 a barrel in 2000
- don't expect Americans to immediate-
ly take it as a sign to limit their car trips.
A study conducted by the Pew Research
Center found fewer Americans than you
would expect are peeved by the high gas
prices. Almost seven of 10 drivers still
enjoy getting behind the wheel, and while
down from the eight of 10 who enjoyed it
in 1991, only 3 percent of those surveyed
cited higher gas prices as the reason for
not wanting to drive as much.
Only when Americans are presented
with up-to-date, affordable and reliable
alternatives to driving will their love
affair with cars begin to weaken. This is
extremely dependent on the Bush admin-
istration pouring more money into alter-
native transportation methods and heavily
promoting the use of trains, buses and
(gasp!) bicycles, thus lowering America's
compulsion to drive everywhere. A loftier
result of this revolution is more people
realizing the absolute ridiculousness of
driving a Hummer around suburbia - and
that would be a true victory for America.
Kennelly can be reached at


For those of
you who
happen to
be as socially inept
as I am, comment-
ing on the various
blogs now scat-
tered across the
Internet, you might
have happened
across Godwin's Law of Nazi Analo-
gies. Coined in 1990 by attorney Mike
Godwin, Godwin's Law states: "As an
online discussion grows longer, the prob-
ability of a comparison involving Nazis
or Hitler approaches one." In other words,
the more people debate a topic, the more
likely someone will make a comparison
to the Nazis, Hitler, etc.
Typically, especially in the older days,
when someone made such a comparison,
the discussion was considered over. But
what's fascinating about Godwin's Law
is its applicability to real life: Its valid-
ity lies with common sense. After all,
since Nazism is a failed ideology known
distinctly for its targeted genocide of six
million Jews, no one other than an actual
Nazi is going to defend it.
Thus, the use of a Nazi analogy
proves to be a powerful political tool. In
the period leading up to the war in Iraq,
comparisons between Adolf Hitler and
Saddam Hussein were frequently made.
Anti-war protests during that same period
also compared President Bush with Hit-
ler. Slobodan Milosevic was a Hitler rein-
carnate too during the war in Bosnia, as

remains Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
Often accompanying the Nazi anal-
ogy is the Holocaust analogy. After
recalling his ambassador to Israel,
Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez called
Israel's assault on Lebanon a "new Holo-
caust." The ethnic cleansing of Jews
from Arab lands after the establishment
of the state of Israel is also often labeled
as a second Holocaust.
Ann Arborites are very familiar with
Blaine Coleman, local moron and divest-
ment activist. He is known for equating
Zionism with Nazism at Ann Arbor City
Council meetings and for carrying a sign
at weekly vigils that says, "Stop Crucify-
ing Palestine."
The truth, of course, is that the only
true Nazis are Nazis. The exploitation
of the fact that no one can morally
defend the Nazis is utilized by those
on the left and the right. Labeling your
political opponents either as members
of that genocidal regime or the next
closest thing is not critical analysis.
Use of the Nazi analogy demonstrates
two important facts. One, it shows an
ignorance of history. Two, it provides
evidence that the person who uses it has
a weak argument. Instead of debating
the topic at hand, people devote their
time thinking of ways to show that the
Nazi analogy does not fit.
As comical as this might be, its
political ramifications are alarming.
Using the Nazi analogy justifies mili-
tarism, offensive and possibly racist
catchphrases, and bastardizes history.

Comparing Saddam Hussein to Hitler
does not justify the war in Iraq. Refer-
ring to abortion clinics as concentration
camps is not a legitimate defense of an
anti-abortion stance. Calling Democrats
or Republicans Nazis only distracts us
from the important issues, such as the
economy, health care, education, etc.
The Nazi analogy only further divides
us, as it causes more people to jump to
extremist positions.
In a history class last winter, my pro-
who came to the University in the 1960s.
This philosopher had lived under Nazi
occupation and the puppet Vichy regime
and remembered it vividly. Crossing the
Diag one day, he encountered student
protestors, who were unhappy with then
University President Robben Fleming.
They called his administration "fascist."
The French philosopher answered back:
"I lived under the Nazis. I lived under
fascist rule. If you think that this is fas-
cism, then you have absolutely no idea
what you're talking about."
Come fall, with student groups flood-
ing the Diag with political slogans -
especially during an election year - it's
in our best interestto avoid the Nazi anal-
ogy entirely. If we debate each other like
college students should, instead of hurl
ridiculous accusations, we might finally
be able to do what we are supposed to be
doing in college: learn.
Goldberg can be reached at

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