- The Washington Times - Friday, May 17, 2002

Now that a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has unanimously rejected an absurd claim by U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Chairman Mary Frances Berry, perhaps the commission can move on to the business of pursuing its mission. Perhaps, but not likely at least if Miss Berry has any say. In fact, she has already announced that the decision by the appellate court will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In unanimously overturning an earlier decision by Clinton-appointed U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, the three-member appeals panel ruled in favor of the Bush administration. The appeals court ordered the commission to install Peter Kirsanow, whom Mr. Bush appointed in December but whom Miss Berry refused to accept. Miss Berry and Victoria Wilson, whom Mr. Kirsanow will be officially replacing at the commission's meeting today, had been insisting that Miss Wilson was appointed to a six-year term. However, when Bill Clinton selected Miss Wilson on Jan. 13, 2000, her letter of commission specifically limited her appointment to the unexpired term of the late Judge A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. That term was scheduled to end Nov. 29, 2001.

Embodying the worst nightmare of Miss Berry, who is obsessed with minority victimhood at the hands of what she perceives to be a racially oppressive majority, Mr. Kirsanow is the former chairman of the conservative Center for New Black Leadership. To be truly effective, Mr. Kirsanow argues that the eight-member civil rights commission must address the huge achievement gap between black and white students, which he described in an interview in the New York Times as "the pre-eminent civil rights issue of the 21st century."

In a couple of words, Mr. Kirsanow gets it. He understands what Mr. Bush meant when he campaigned for the presidency by declaring that "reading is the new civil right." As the Department of Education repeatedly documents in its National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading assessments, an enormous reading gap remains between black and Hispanic students, on the one hand, and white and Asian students, on the other. Given that Miss Berry teaches at Howard University in Washington and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, two cities operating arguably the nation's worst public school systems, one wonders how Miss Berry can pursue her divisive tactics in the face of such catastrophic educational problems.

Mr. Kirsanow must now undertake the challenge of educating Miss Berry. Good luck to him.

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