The Breakfast Table

Affirmative Action on the Scales

Good morning, Steve:

My, aren’t we feisty today? What happened? Did the Cubs win or something?

Looks like we agree on one thing: Bob Dole isn’t eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner today with the missus. The senator has been sent to his room, where he is writing 1,000 times: “I do want Liddy to be president. I do want Liddy to be president …”

Yodas is a good term for your affirmative-action experts. Sounds like they agree with my experts on how things work in the real world. Our disagreement is about conclusions. Affirmative action has never been perfect. I’ve seen some awful examples in business and government. As the debate progressed in our state last year, I tried to imagine one of those old-fashioned scales of justice. On one tray, I placed every negative affirmative-action story or factoid I could recall. Lower graduation rates for blacks, for example. Then I filled the other tray with positive stories–stories about Washington Gov. Gary Locke, the nation’s first Chinese-American governor, a beneficiary of affirmative action. I also filled that side of the tray with the growing number of women and minorities ready to become anything they want. Then I came down on the side of my snooty Harvard and Princeton experts: in favor of keeping affirmative action.

The stories sticking in my head today come from Washington, D.C., and one of those Associated Press roundups, from Texas to Michigan to Ohio.

Bomb threats continue at middle schools and high schools around the country. Psychiatrists gathered in D.C. to figure out what’s wrong are as frustrated and disturbed by the inexplicable copycat plans as the public is.

I don’t know if they are charging $110 an hour for this insight, but they blame the usual stuff–high schools too large for adults to control, violent video games, and social alienation.

One expert, James Garbarino, a Cornell University professor, said: “Virtually every school in America contains boys who are troubled enough, violent enough, and righteous enough that these shootings are destined to become part of the fabric of American adolescence.” Isn’t that comforting? Garbarino is the author of the book Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them.

As the mother of a 9-year-old boy, I think about the minds of little boys a lot and the challenge of teaching them empathy. My running partner says you start with rules that teach inclusion. For example, any child on the playground has to be allowed to play the game. Otherwise, no game.

As you know, I am for gun control, but I don’t believe for a second that guns are the only thing going on here.

What have you told your boys about Littleton? My son is a news hound–shock!--but then he has trouble processing the details. Of course he does; so do I. He’s asked me a jillion questions I don’t have good answers for.

What do you libertarians think we should do? Obviously, a call to the nation’s top shrinks isn’t the answer. They haven’t a clue. If I follow the libertarian view point to its logical or illogical conclusion, do you think any child should be able to watch Natural Born Killers and buy bazookas over the Internet?

In much lighter news, Seattle Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez, one-time American League batting champ, smacked three homers in one game in the M’s win over the Twins last night.

Life is good or at least the day is approachable