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Letters to the editor

editor@vaildaily.com

education for all

The French philosopher Rousseau is attributed with the quotation, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death, your right to say it.” That quote has always been a favorite of mine and a basic tenet of my personal philosophy.

On the other hand, for people like Mr. Mark Lich, I’d be tempted to make an exception. Mr. Lich’s ignorance and apparent bigotry, as expressed in his letter to the editor (printed12/12), was so disturbing I feel absolutely compelled to dispute him.

The worst kind of bigotry is the insidious kind. And insidious bigotry and racism is largely what remains in our country. A mixed response to our society’s efforts over the past half century. Most (but only most) of the overt stuff has been successfully suppressed, fortunately.

If you need an example of insidious bigotry, I suggest you read Mr. Lich’s exposition.

Firstly, Mr. Lich, educating poor, ignorant children is actually far cheaper than not. Anyone who doesn’t realize that has probably been reading comic books for the past 20 years. I’m sorry that your wallet feels strained by these poor, brown-skinned munchkins, but you may wish to remember that universal education is a basic American principle. It is part of our democratic and inclusive philosophy and has been so since the early part of the 19th century (see Webster of Massachusetts). And every state, once advanced beyond frontier barbarism, has passed laws ensuring all our children an education and a chance to escape the stoop and factory work that characterizes the world Mr. Lich obviously thinks might save him a buck.

This distinction between “immigrants” and “undocumented workers” is as specious as it gets. Does anyone believe that most newly arrived immigrants, legal or not, pay taxes? How many immigrants have you met that are up and running and prosperous within any few years after immigration? A few? One?

How many undocumented workers become immigrants, then citizens, then significant contributors? Once they learn to read English, of course.

Secondly, we are not Mexico or Honduras. This is the USA precisely because we try harder than they do and we have the resources. And because we educate our children regardless of race, religion or economic circumstance. Or perhaps Mr. Lich thinks we should allow them to commute to school there? Or should they be back in the fields alongside their parents, as was the case up to the ’70s, and in too many cases still is?

To even hint we should deprive children of a chance at a decent life because of their parents’ unfortunate circumstance is flat out despicable.

Mr. Lich, and every one of us, enjoys the fruits of the labor of undocumented workers. Without them, the crops wouldn’t get in; firewood wouldn’t be delivered; houses, hotels and condos would go uncleaned.

Without them, every single one of us would notice a significant increase in our cost of living. Every day, in a thousand ways, we all rely on these people to make our lives more comfortable, more prosperous. And we pay them a pittance.

To suggest that we demean their circumstance even more by removing the chance of educating their children is somewhere between mean (in the economic sense) and shameful (in every other sense).

To suggest we should abandon our country’s longstanding commitment to universal education for all to save a short-term buck demonstrates that Mr. Lich not only has no understanding of basic economics but he is so wrapped up in his own deeply buried prejudices, he’s forgotten his ninth grade civics course.

I don’t even have children. Yet I pay my taxes without complaint, fully aware that they go wholly to educate other people’s kids, and I don’t give a damn whose kids they are. Kids are kids and they are sacred. I pay because I must, but I don’t complain for a very simple reason. Education is the only cure to the ills of the world.

Educating people is cheaper than welfare programs, prison and crime prevention and the myriad ills that afflict the ignorant. And that the rest of society pays for. These children will eventually be among us. Or do you think, perhaps, that they will slink quietly away from the land of milk and honey?

What kinds of neighbors do you want your kids to have 20 years from now?

Mr. Lich, you have the right to say anything you want. We all have the right to make a fool of ourselves in public. Next time, though, perhaps you might wish to reacquaint yourself with the basic ideas of America and maybe get some economics 101 under your belt.

As for the Daily, this blind commitment to the First Amendment doesn’t really bind you to print thinly disguised bigotry. Did anybody read this, or think about it before you went to press? The First Amendment isn’t any longer intended to protect bigotry, no matter how insidiously couched.

Jim Dorsey


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