- The Washington Times - Monday, March 8, 2004

Debate on divorce overdue

Terrific piece by Amy Fagan (“Marriage battle begins on Hill,” Page 1, Thursday), but what about the divorce battle? As a divorced father, I would like to see straight divorce receive the same level of national attention as homosexual “marriage.” America’s children and their fathers deserve egalitarian and equitable divorce laws so they can maintain meaningful relationships and financial stability following divorce.

The proof is in the numbers. First-time marriages dissolve at the rate of about two out of three (50 percent divorce; 17 percent permanent separation), about two out of three times, it is the wife who initiates the divorce, and about 90 percent of the time, the mother receives custody of the children while the father receives child-support and alimony obligations plus the “right” to visit his children occasionally.

What America really needs is a Bush Divorce Initiative. Is Mr. Bush counting the votes of all those divorced fathers out there?

GORDON E. FINLEY

Miami

Sen. Allen’s ‘healthy’ voting record

I must disagree with Scott Kenyon’s letter calling Sen. George Allen’s vote against extending the so-called assault weapons ban a change or flip-flop of his position (“Flip-flopitis — it’s contagious,” Saturday) .

Mr. Allen has said he favors enforcing existing firearms laws, including the assault weapons ban, instead of passing new ones. The rationale given for the sunset provision at the time the ban was passed nearly 10 years ago makes Mr. Allen’s vote last week anything but a flip-flop. The sunset provision was added as a compromise with senators and representatives who did not believe some of the bill’s restrictions would be effective. The 10-year provision was promoted as giving the gun restrictions a chance to work but also allowing reconsideration at the time the law expired.

Because these restrictions have not made a discernible difference in criminal activity, Mr. Allen is fully in compliance with the terms of the law to decide it is in our best interest to let it expire. His vote against extending the assault weapons ban is within the bounds of his promise to enforce existing law.

BOB FORD

Covington, Va.

No cheers for Al Hurra

Benjamin Hu’s article Friday about Al Hurra, the latest media project of the Board of Broadcasting Governors (BBG), is right on the mark (“Al Hurra introduction prompts ire,” World).

BBG projects such as Radio Sawa and the television project Al Hurra should be viewed with caution and skepticism. These projects appear to be fueled by special interests within the board rather than based on the reality of events in the Middle East.

The board claims Radio Sawa is a success, a mantra it repeats tirelessly before Congress and in the press in the hopes it will be believed. To the contrary, since Radio Sawa began broadcasting to the Middle East, Arab and Muslim public opinion about the United States has plummeted precipitously, as documented in reports by the Pew Research group, the Heritage Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations and the report to Congress by a group headed by Edward P. Djerejian, a former ambassador to Israel who is director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.

By all accounts, the board’s media projects in the Middle East are dysfunctional. They certainly are disconnected from U.S. public diplomacy.

We believe the board has an obligation to function in the national and public interest. In this instance, the national interest means being a functional, fully integrated part of the U.S. public diplomacy effort. The public interest means spending taxpayer funds responsibly rather than on boondoggles. It also means the board should not cut Voice of America (VOA) radio broadcasts, including English, to fund pet projects that are not subjected to any kind of research to determine if they are being effective. With regard to VOA, broadcasting in English on radio is the most cost-effective way of reaching the rest of the world, where English is the second language of choice for millions of nonnative English speakers.

The Board of Broadcasting Governors also needs to be remindedthatthe Hollywood/Madison Avenue approach to dealing with the Arab and Muslim world has been tried and has failed.

Congressional and research reports, scholarly and analytical articles all have reached the same conclusion: U.S. public diplomacy, particularly the international broadcasting component, is in disrepair and is misdirected. It’s time for the White House, Congress and the State Department to fix this problem.

Until that happens, there should be no confidence in the actions of the Board of Broadcasting Governors, particularly in its radio and television programs to the Arab and Muslim world.

GARY A. MARCO

President

AFSCME Local 1418

Alexandria Va.

TIM SHAMBLE

President

AFGE Local 1812

Sterling

In defense of Paige

I agree with Education Secretary Rod Paige’s assessment of the National Education Association (“Inside the Beltway,” Nation, Tuesday). “Terrorist organization” might have been a strong phrase to use, but the premise is correct. The NEA is basically a union that is more of a political entity than one of concern for the education of children. Unions, including the NEA, originally were well-meaning and righteous. However, over the years, unions have become extensions of the Democratic Party. I believe this is the reason for the continuing decline in union membership.

Throwing money at education obviously is not the solution. Federal education spending increased by 118 percent from fiscal 1996 to fiscal 2002. President Bush wants to add to this with a 48 percent increase for elementary and secondary education programs. However, he has demanded accountability. The NEA does not want to be held accountable. It wants free rein, regardless of whether or not children learn. There are many wonderfully qualified teachers who are committed to teaching children. My sister is one. Unfortunately, the NEA and its leadership stand in the way.

The liberal politics of the NEA, which is more concerned about bullies and children playing dodge ball than whether students learn, is the problem. The political correctness of the education system coupled with the liberal side of our culture is the culprit. Hence, we see more private schools and home-schooling.

If we remove politics from education, we might have a chance at truly educating children and producing successful adults.

DEBBIE GAMBLIN

Brandon, Miss.

Translating ‘edu-speak’

We have blamed teachers for every other ill in our society, but really, are we going to blame them for “edu-speak,” too? Do we really think teachers have time to sit around dreaming up terms such as “standard units of learning”? Maybe Heritage Foundation President Ed Feulner should take a closer look at the American Diploma Project reports to which he pays such homage in his editorial “Flunking the jargon test” (Commentary, Saturday). This classic line of edu-babble drivel comes right out of the American Diploma Project’s “College and Workplace Readiness Benchmarks and Samples” report:

“Defining rigor is handled differently in the mathematics benchmarks, with the inclusion of sample problems embedded within the benchmarks themselves to illustrate the quality and complexity of the corresponding mathematics benchmark”(Page 23).

SUE ALLISON

Lusby, Md.

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