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Teddy Kennedy on Education

Commentary by Greg Lewis /
January 20, 2005

In a recent (1/12/05) talk, entitled "A Democratic Blueprint for America's Future," to the National Press Club, Senator Edward "Teddy" Kennedy (D-MA) addressed, among other things, the issue of education in America by proposing a formalized "Contract With Students." The crux of his proposition was, in his words, "that every child in America, upon reaching eighth grade, be offered a contract" which decrees that if he or she finishes high school and is admitted to college, "we [the Ted is here presumably speaking for American taxpayers] will guarantee [to pay] the cost of earning a degree."

For starters, Teddy's proposed program is clearly aimed overwhelmingly at "economically disadvantaged" children whose families have not yet, by dint of hard work and sacrifice and responsible behavior, managed to hitch a ride on the American equity express; which is another way of saying they haven't yet managed to break free of the strictures of the economic dead-end of the Democratic welfare society.

So we need to get this out in the open at the start: It is decidedly not legitimate to, as Democrats have done through retrograde legislation, bring into being a society which consigns a segment of the American people to economic subservience by guaranteeing them welfare benefits in exchange for their giving up the right to enter into mainstream society and compete on an equal basis with their fellow Americans for the wonderful rewards available to our citizens, and then to turn around and propose that American taxpayers foot the bill for the children of these welfare slaves to go to college, whether they're college material or not.

Liberal legislation may have created the trap in which so many of our welfare-dependent citizens have become ensnared, but, fair or not, it is up to those citizens to find their own way out of that trap. It is not the responsibility of a majority of American taxpayers to bail out liberal Democrats from the societal dysgenesis that has resulted from their retrogressive legislation.

But we need not stop there. Let's look at the issue from another perspective. I can just imagine that Kennedy's proposed free ride is going to sit really well with the millions of middle class Americans who have juggled their budgets and scrimped and saved and gone without so that their children could go to college. Middle America is just going to love the idea that Teddy's Dems are going to have them paying for "disadvantaged" students to reap the benefits they worked so hard to provide for their own children, but without their (the parents of the disadvantaged children) having to go through any of the inconvenience, not to say the hardship, that raising children and putting them through college all-too-frequently entails, especially for those who follow generally accepted ways to accomplish this.

Hey, Ted, consider this: Among your constituency are (presumably) working-class and professional Americans, husbands and wives alike, who for the past 25 or 30 years or so have toiled assiduously at their jobs. Their children have completed college or are about to do so, and both the parents and the children have accrued significant debt in order to accomplish this. Now you're proposing, out of the blue, that these hard-working middle-Americans pay college tuition for another generation of kids, and, furthermore, kids they've never met and who will never so much as offer a hat tip in thanks for what these anonymous taxpayers will have done for them?

There's more, Ted. I can't imagine that there's any room here for relaxing educational standards so that a greater number of students in the targeted population can take advantage of yet another free ride at the expense of American taxpayers, can you? Which is to say that the likelihood of corruption associated with this whole fiasco has a good chance of rivaling that of the UN Oil-For-Food scandal.

Nor can I imagine that anyone would trot out the liberal excuse that holds that disadvantaged and minority students should be judged by relaxed standards when compared to children of white, Asian, and/or economically "advantaged" parents in order to insure that lots of otherwise unqualified students get to take advantage of this perk. I'm sure this has never occurred to you or your advisors, either.

Among the things that come to light as a result of Teddy's proposal is this: Liberals and Democrats have mastered the art of engineering legislation and public opinion in such a way as to create socio-economic outcomes that reinforce their political point-of-view. Indeed, Democrats are past masters at the art of social engineering through legislation. To cite only one example, the "both hands full o' gimme" welfare culture that has resulted from liberal Great Society legislation of the 1960s serves to reinforce the underlying principle on which it was constructed: that (particularly, in this case) many minority Americans are incapable of fending for themselves and need financial and social assistance in order to compete with other Americans.
The welfare system has served, not to help disadvantaged Americans escape from their poverty-induced position as second-class citizens, but to entrap them in a perverse government-sanctioned identity which reinforces their sense of themselves as victims of the very society they live in.

The idea that the carrot of a paid-for college education might be an inducement to either an inner-city eighth-grader or to his or her parent is ludicrous. (My use of the singular "parent," by the way, is intentional. It's way better than even money that said student — again, largely as a result of liberal-Democrat welfare-society rewards to unmarried parents — is going to reside in a single-parent household.)

That Teddy Kennedy could even imagine proposing, not to mention in an address to a national audience, such an obviously unworkable program is testimony to the by-now accepted political truth that Democrats, and left-liberals in general, are woefully out of touch with the values held and shared by a significant majority of Americans.



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