Language: Yet Another Four More Years


That last president (much to the satisfaction of our typesetter, who never did manage to get the chap's name right) has disappeared yet again, this time for good. We'll have no more mush from the wimp to kick around. Nil, however, desperandum. He leaves behind a whole mush factory bustling with busy wimps. There'll be no dearth of kicking these next four years.

That Department of Education where the wimps make mush may actually be our departing president's only perpetration destined to live in history. (All right. So it won't live in history. Would you believe social studies?) And for a while there we were afraid we might lose the whole blooming thing, and all because of some idle and off-hand vote-grabbing grandstanding by the other guy. (We'll print his name as soon as our typesetter says he's ready. In the meantime, though, that typesetter, who is also our staff augur and the only pundit in America to divine correctly the meaning of the turkey on the White House lawn, has glumly pointed out that the name of the new president rhymes exactly with the name of the Prime Minister of a land with triple-digit inflation.)

Well, we needn't have worried. The president-elect hasn't said another word about closing the Department of Education since just before the election. And now he has found a secretary, who says that he's not signed on as captain of the Titanic. So we can expect that he will not only keep steering that boat but that he will also take care not to shake it. And he seems a good man for the job. After all, you don't get to be a genuine Doctor of Education by subjecting the pretentious claptrap of your professors and colleagues to the unkind and elitist scrutiny of logical thought. And you won't last long as the commissioner of higher education out in Utah unless you know how to live and let live with the unions and the bold innovative thrusters and the institutes for the study of the problematical parameters of prediagnostic preassessment, to say nothing of the legislature and all the deans of the teacher-training academies. But, on the negative side, it must be said that the man did take the job, and we do have to wonder why someone who was once a master sergeant in the US Marine Corps would want to sink into such company.

Politicians are in favor of education. The millions of government employees who operate the public schools have convinced the politicians, and us, that what they do in the schools is education. That is a lie. The public schools do provide massive public jobs programs, ready outlets for the countless products of the manufacturers of materials and devices and pseudobooks, sempiternal subsidies for enthusiasts and charlatans, and a captive clientele for the ministrations of the social adjusters and the values clarifiers. Education sometimes does happen in the schools, but only as the result of individual enterprise and never out of institutional intention, which is, in any case, and which must be, in a government agency, vigilant against the antisocial and elitist influences of individual enterprise.

So send not to know for whom T.H. Bell toils. He toils for government, which flourishes best in the absence of the informed discretion that Jefferson prescribed as at once the fruit of education and our surest protection against government. But don't despair. It's going to be a long, cold winter in the DED. There may be icebergs.

Richard Mitchell is the author of Less Than Words Can Say and the publisher of the Underground Grammarian, from which this column is adapted.