Sunday, June 1, 2008

Rescue kids from ‘sinking ship’

[This column by Brandon Dutcher appeared today in The Oklahoman.]

Another legislative session has come and gone, and again this year the education establishment was able to squash legislation that would have given parents more school choices.

The New Hope Scholarship Act, which passed the Senate but not the GOP-controlled House, would have given a tax credit to Oklahomans who contribute to organizations that provide private school scholarships for low-income children trapped in 13 failing public schools in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

During floor debate on the legislation, Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, asked a rather astonishing question: "Why is it that we want to take some of the kids out of the public schools and essentially leave the rest on the sinking ship?"

The obvious answer was provided by another Oklahoma City Democrat, Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, during floor debate the following month: "Do you put people on the lifeboats (even if) you don't have enough lifeboats for everybody, or do you let them all drown?"

The answer is clear. You save as many human beings as you can.

"One by one, the (life)boats were filled with women and children, lowered and rowed away into the night, Titanic survivor Lawrence Beesley later recalled. After all, it was simply "common prudence" to get as many people as possible into the lifeboats and "row from the sinking ship to save at any rate some lives."

Why would we want to take people off the sinking ship? Read through the list of Titanic survivors and ask yourself which of them should have been forced to go down with the ship. Five-year-old Lillian Gertrud? Nine-year-old William Coutts? How about Elizabeth Gladys Dean? Then 9-weeks old, today at 96 she's the only remaining Titanic survivor. You think she's grateful someone took her off the sinking ship?

Arguing against the New Hope legislation, state Rep. Scott Inman, D-Del City, told his colleagues that "if you select 10, 20, 40, a thousand kids and leave everyone else behind, you have abdicated your responsibility."

The opposite is true. If you leave them all on the sinking ship, you have abdicated your responsibility. Benjamin Guggenheim understood this. As Guggenheim came to realize the Titanic was going down, the wealthy businessman asked a survivor to convey a message to his wife: "Tell her that my last thoughts will be of her and of our girls, but that my duty now is to these unfortunate women and children on this ship."

Speaking recently in Oklahoma City, the black author and columnist Star Parker drew a different analogy. Comparing the school-choice movement to the Underground Railroad, Parker reminded her listeners that "Harriet Tubman was going one by one getting them out." And even if we can't get them all right now, "it makes a difference for the one we got out ... even if it means one child at a time."

It will make a difference for the ones we can get off the sinking ship.

"If I can help some of them," Rep. Hamilton said, "I'm going to do it."

No comments: