Bill Bennett, author of the 1993 best seller “The Book of Virtues,” and long-time nemesis of the Hispanic community, is back in the news. Now he is broadening the targets of his prejudices and sharing them out loud.
A couple of years ago, a fresh dimension of Bennett’s character was revealed when he finally was outed in the national media as a compulsive gambler who had squandered $8 million to support his Atlantic City habit.
“The Bookie of Virtues,” an article in the June 2003 Washington Monthly by Joshua Green, summed up his shriveled values: “William J. Bennett has made millions lecturing people on morality _ and blown it on gambling.”
Before that exposure, Bennett’s standard fee to deliver a virtuous message was $50,000.
I imagine you can get him for less now that he declared on his syndicated radio talk show, “Morning in America” that:
“It’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could _ if it were your sole purpose _ abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.”
So what has been the problem between Bennett and Hispanics?
As the nation’s third Secretary of Education, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1985 at a time when our public schools were struggling to teach an increasing flow of immigrant students, he was busy working to eradicate bilingual education. In a major policy speech on the subject Sept. 26, 1985, he declared: “After 17 years of federal involvement and after $1.7 billion of federal funding, we have no evidence that the children we sought to help have benefited.”
No evidence? A big, fat fib! He infuriated Latino leaders and scholars alike by ignoring or burying studies that proved otherwise. One of his disciples then told The Washington Times that bilingual education was a “silent conspiracy to keep Spanish children in linguistic bondage.”
A year later he urged an ending to U.S subsides for many student loans.
He rid his department of its high-level Latino employees. After Bennett replaced Terrell Bell as education secretary, the number of Hispanics holding top career positions in the department plunged from 19 to two. And overall, the number of Hispanics working within Bennett’s fiefdom dropped from 4 percent to less than 3 percent.
He proposed to change the nation’s public schools by installing a two-tier system, one track for students he identified as college-caliber and the other for dummies. And we all know the color code that would be used to select members of that group.
There’s plenty more. He named bilingual education foes to its advisory bodies, called for more education funding cuts and once suggested that the whole department be abolished. Later, in 1990, as he prepared to become the Republican Party’s national chairman, he told The Los Angeles Times, “I believe that the idea behind affirmative action . . . is wrong.”
“To the end,” wrote Colman McCarthy in The Washington Post when Bennett was about to leave as Education Secretary in 1989, “Bennett put himself at the service of the Republican Party, not teachers and students.”
Particularly, he could have added, Hispanic kids
Bennett went on to be appointed by President George H. W. Bush as our national drug czar.
If today, in his current state of mind, Bennett were recommending national policy on bilingual education and our war on drugs/immigration, think of the creative solutions he could submit to the White House and Congress.
The United States could abort the fetuses of any prospective mothers who didn’t speak English. And, through diplomatic channels, he could advise our neighbor Mexico to do the same for any of its young women who were thinking of heading our way.