No debate on the big issues
Sometimes it feels like we are living on the Starship Enterprise, and periodically we can expect Capt. Picard to show up to announce some nearly impossible, highly dangerous task and order us to “make it so.”
Just consider two dramatic mandates with profound implications reported last week:
The military tradition going all the way back to the country’s founding will be scrapped and women will be allowed to volunteer for ground combat duty.
School districts – every last one in the country – must now offer students with disabilities the same sports opportunities as other children.
You’d think these enormous changes would have evolved through long and thoughtful discussions aimed at understanding the consequences and forming a consensus. But, no, they arrived fully formed without warning.
Too much athletic focus
How long will we keep letting the athletics tail wag the education dog? Until we calm down our obsession with the courts and fields, the classrooms will continue to suffer.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Education “clarified” the legal obligations school districts face in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Disabled students must be given an opportunity to benefit from sports programs equal to that of students without disabilities. That will involve deciding which students can fit into existing programs and which will need new programs, an expensive and complicated process. That will mean a lot of time, effort and money that will not go into the education mission.
And this week, we learned details of the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s new requirement that its recruitment bylaws will no longer apply just to high school students.
Is this just a pretend bargain?
In Washington, “compromise” usually involves a game of let’s pretend in which conservatives make concessions for bargains they never really get. In budget negotiations, it involves conceding to tax hikes, which usually come immediately, in return for promised spending cuts that are vaguely off in the future and somehow never materialize.
Let’s hope the new immigration reform proposal isn’t the same kind of sham. That would mean conservatives are conceding on a path to citizenship, which will happen a lot more quickly and with many fewer complications than most people suppose, in return for promised border security, which is vaguely off in the future and not likely to happen. That’s what we saw last time around in 1986 when 3 million were legalized, and it’s the main reason we have 11 million illegal immigrants now.
Cutting back on gambling
Three cheers for the administration of Gov. Mike Pence, which is calling for an end to the subsidization of horse racing that has cost more than $400 million since 1993. “There is a better use of the money,” says spokeswoman Christy Denault.
Shouldn’t an industry that’s been subsidized for 20 years be able to make it on its own by this time? And if it can’t, maybe it’s time to say goodbye – it’s called the competition of free enterprise.
As Matthew Tully of The Indianapolis Star points out, “government money isn’t in endless supply. And it’s worth pondering what that level of assistance could have accomplished if aimed at high-tech companies, or innovative small businesses, or the arts, or the life sciences industry.” Instead, the state is subsidizing an enterprise that exists so people can bet on the races.
Skirting the 1st Amendment
Progressive scholars and politicians have a deserved reputation for not respecting the Constitution. At best, they consider constitutional requirements something to get around when it suits them. At the extreme, they have complete disdain for the founding document. “Let’s give up on the Constitution,” Georgetown University law professor Louis Michael Seidman said on the CBS “Sunday Morning” show this week, because we should not allow ourselves to be ruled by “people who died over two centuries ago.”
Unfortunately, evidence for that disrespect can also be found among conservative lawmakers here in Indiana. Proposed legislation in two cases – one an attempt to keep sex offenders off social media, the other an effort to limit the number of specialty license plates – have to play fast and loose with the First Amendment.