The Breakfast Table

Bye-Bye Bulls, Hello Knicks

Dear Neal,

Practicality, of course, has to temper humanitarian concerns. And I suppose one valid distinction between Rwanda and Kosovo is that in the latter case, we had more advance warning of what was happening (the horrific events in Rwanda, as I recall, unfolded far more rapidly). After Bosnia, there could be no doubt as to what the Milosevic regime was capable of.

Closer to home, I was hoping you’d have some thoughts on Chinese spying and presidential lies. Moving on to vouchers: I don’t think too many people envision the extinction of public education. The idea is to make public schools compete, not only with charter and magnet schools–as Clinton and Gore propose–but with private ones as well. For many, the sticking point is the use of taxpayer-subsidized vouchers for religious schools (which have a pretty good record of educating the most difficult kids, undercutting the argument that private schools do well only because they start with a better class of students). Do you think that would violate the separation of church and state? Clearly the Establishment clause of the First Amendment was intended to prevent the creation of an official religion, which vouchers wouldn’t do unless schools of some denominations, or non-religious schools, were excluded from these programs. In higher education, no one objects when federal or state student aid is used by students attending colleges and universities with a religious affiliation. Some ask whether the government would end up paying for children to attend a school run by a white supremacist group or the Nation of Islam. But again, we can look to higher education as a model. There are non-discrimination guidelines colleges have to follow for their students to be eligible for public aid; I don’t see why the same cannot be done for primary and secondary education.

Certainly, school choice is no panacea. For one, it won’t help children whose parents take little interest in their education. But I think it would be a step in the right direction.

There’s a fascinating Russia-related tidbit in the news: Sergei Khrushchev, son of the late Soviet leader Nikita “We Will Bury You” Khrushchev and resident of the United States since 1991, has applied for U.S. citizenship. It was Khrushchev who promised Nixon that his (Nixon’s) grandchildren would live under communism. Ah, the delicious ironies of history.

I’m thrilled about the Knicks, but doesn’t it feel strange to have NBA playoffs without the Chicago Bulls? Sort of like Democrats not being in control of Congress, though I guess we’re used to that now. By the way, are you planning to follow the Women’s NBA this summer? It should be an exciting season, with star players from the now-defunct American Basketball League absorbed into the WNBA and with the professional debut of Chamique Holdsclaw, who is expected to raise women’s basketball to a whole new level of visibility. Women’s tennis now enjoys more or less equal attention and status with men’s tennis; do you think the same will ever happen in basketball?