Regarding your Dec. 7 editorial "An Unconstitutional Mandate" about a proposed amendment to require federally funded schools to teach the Constitution: When I was in high school (eons ago, in 1962) my English teacher was very vocal in her opposition to federal aid for education. Her argument was that if schools accepted federal funds, they would have to accept federal control of the curriculum.
If any entity wants to add funding to the schools, it has the right to lay down conditions under which it will provide that funding. The school district is free to decline the offer. The new requirement is not based on any "power" except the one to control how federal money is spent - a right that is clearly granted in the Constitution. So the new requirement put forth by Senator Byrd might be bad education policy; it might be bad national policy; it might even be a silly idea. But it is not unconstitutional.
As my English teacher predicted four decades ago, schools have become so dependent on federal aid that it has become unthinkable to decline it. That is the real problem here, not Senator Byrd's amendment. Our model of education funding is woefully inadequate in most areas of the country. If our schools had sufficient local funding they would not feel compelled to accept the federal control that tags along with their federal aid check.
Regarding John Hughes's Dec. 8 Opinion piece, "US can help UN sink, or better yet, swim": Although the UN is far from perfect and now facing scandal, it is the best international institution available to provide economic and political aid to developing countries, as well as a system of checks and balances on rogue states and totalitarian regimes. "Sinking" the UN will lead to unwarranted international chaos and crisis. Thus, the US should play a leadership role in helping the UN "swim."
That said, the Bush administration must be cautious and considerate in overseeing UN reform. President Bush is an opponent of international law and has been rather contemptuous of UN authority when it has challenged his policies. If the president wishes to "talk the talk" on these possible reforms, he should also "walk the walk."
Round Rock, Texas
Americans harp on errors or corruption in the United Nations (there are plenty) while ignoring the beam in our own eye, the reckless swashbuckling of Bush, Rumsfeld, and Rice, who ignored common sense, failed to plan for post-invasion problems, and turned most of the world against us.
We would be worse off if the UN were out of the picture. Absence of the UN and its admittedly corrupt bureaucracy would spur greater recklessness by Bush and would bring us closer to the day of civil war, not in Iraq, but at home.
I disagree with Mr. Hughes that a US withdrawal from the UN would render it defunct. If most of the other countries in the world still wished to continue to try solving life-threatening situations through the UN, it need never become defunct.
If the US government truly entered into the spirit of the UN, it would not seek reforms to "make it more relevant to US interests" but rather more relevant to the interests of all humanity.
I would like to see the veto abolished in the UN so that all nations have an equal voice and consensus becomes the basis for any action.
Vancouver, British Columbia
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