December 17, 2017

1970. The White House Plays Games with the Education Bill

Juggling with the Country's Future
"Police and student demonstrators facing off in an antiwar march down the I-5 freeway during the May 1970 student strike" (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

August 19, 1970

Simply on the face of it, a country that spends more than $70 billion for military defense and then quibbles about spending less than $5 billion for education has got a screw loose somewhere in its national priorities.

And when presidential politics gets into the education act, such juggling with the intellectual future of the United States becomes downright immoral.

When the Senate voted an overwhelming 77 to 16 yesterday to override President Nixon's veto and to authorize $4.4 billion for federal aid to education, it brought to an end a shoddy little game of political football that brings little credit to the team players at the White House or in Congress.

Mr. Nixon said he vetoed the bill because it exceeded his education spending proposals by more than $450 million. He called it "extravagant and inflationary," a recurring Republican label which the administration is trying to pin on the Democratically-controlled Congress.

However, ABC White House correspondent Bill Gill reports that the president finally decided on the veto only after he had received assurances from Republican congressional leaders that there were enough votes in the House and the Senate to override his action. The fact that 23 Republican senators joined 54 Democrats, and 77 Republican congressmen joined 212 Democrats in the House of Representatives to kill the veto, seems to be ample evidence that the GOP leadership got the word around that the White House really only was playing games with the education bill.

However, if the president's intent was to pin a spendthrift label on the Democratic Congress and thus place blame for the continuing national inflation, the tactic may have backfired. Too many congressional Republicans got involved.

What is even more disturbing is the changing national attitude toward American public schooling and higher education—an insipient kind of "know-nothingism."

In my youth even during the Great Depression when the colleges and universities were begging for students, the parents skimped and saved because they were determined their children would get the education the parents had missed.

Now the public school and higher education system is under attack from segregationists, north and south. A minority of professional students and amateur revolutionaries demanding relevance have been allowed to disrupt the education of the majority.

And one of the more shocking statements in my opinion ever uttered by a US public official was made by—guess who—Vice President Agnew. In a recent speech, Mr. Agnew allowed as how people would have to get over the idea that every American youth has to go to college. Okay, so we'll have a dumb country.

Like everything else, the cost of education has soared. But contrary to President Nixon, it is not inflationary. It's an investment in the American future.