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Consider possibility of war on public education

I attended a talk by Judge Robert Bork some years ago at Princeton. He was a pivotal figure in former President Richard Nixon administration's post-Watergate collapse. In an attempt to prevent Nixon's office tape recordings from being subpoenaed, Bork acted as Nixon's hatchetman in the "Saturday Night Massacre," the firing of the special prosecutor in charge of investigating the Watergate burglary. The Supreme Court intervened, ordering Nixon to turn over the tapes.

Bork's talk was about education. He went on to talk about the "problem with America" as having started post-World War II as soldiers returned from military service and started using their right under the G.I. Bill to attend college at government expense. He commented on the fact that suddenly, working-class people were attending college.

Even the conservative Princeton crowd was stunned as everyone looked around at each other as if to ask, "Did I just hear that?"

I began to wonder if Bork's views were widely or perhaps covertly shared by high-level policymakers and made manifest in the dumbing down of America.

The "Walk into Action," in the present day, was about raising awareness regarding funding of higher education. In yesterday's The Daily Targum, University President Richard L. McCormick expressed support: "I'm doing my share to communicate these needs to our elected officials. … Otherwise, together we can't keep Rutgers public."

McCormick, who has a good instinct for knowing which way the wind is blowing, was affirmed by University Professor Larry Romsted: "I think public universities are being turned into private schools by essentially increasing tuition all the time."

My point is that there may be a pervasive viewpoint that sees public education as part of the problem with America, and there may be an underlying movement to dismantle public education from within. Recall philosopher Plato, who said, "It is apparently not in the interest of such rulers to have great ideas engendered in their subjects."

Perhaps funding policies regarding the public are not an accident but part of a plan to dismantle them.

Students should be aware that they might not be carrying the news when they tell people the power of education and the need for funding. It may be the power of education, which is seen as the problem and the lack of funding as the solution.

James Kellinger is a Rutgers-Newark College of the Arts and Sciences Class of 2003 alumnus.

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