the last Sunday of the November sweeps,rnand that it was the highest-rated episodernof the season.rnWithin a week, Oakland County prosecutorrnDavid Gorcyra announced thatrnhe would fulfill Kevorkian’s wish andrncharge him in Youk’s death, arguing thatrn”Consent is not a viable defense in takingrnthe life of another, even under the mostrncontrolled environment.” His decisionrnwas applauded by Michigan State SenatorrnWilliam Van Regenmorter (R-Hudsonville),rna long-time foe of Kevorkianrnand the chief sponsor of Michigan’s recentrnlaw banning assisted suicide. “Thisrnis a defining moment for Michigan,”rnVan Regenmorter declared. “We are eitherrngoing to pursue a culture of death orrna culture of life.”rnThis !s a defining moment, not onlyrntor Michigan but also for America. Unfortunately,rnwe may have already chosenrnour direction: The Detroit News reportsrnthat, in the wake of the 60 Minutesrnepisode, a “pro-family” group demandedrnthat CBS air an 83-second tape of a partial-rnbirth abortion to prove that the networkrnwill provide “equal coverage to arnvariety of controversial issues.” WhenrnChrisfians delude themselves into thinkingrnthat they are fighting for life byrnexposing Americans to graphic depictionsrnof murder, then the devil can take arnholiday.rnIronically, those who truly pursue thernculture of life may find Jack Kevorkian tornbe their greatest ally. His candor aboutrnhis own twisted desire to watch peoplerndie at least allows us to look evil in thernface, and to see it for what it is. And, ultimately,rnevil must destroy itself, whichrnmay well be what Kevorkian will dornwhen he defends himself in his upcomingrntrial. The Detroit News reminded itsrnreaders of another high-profile case inrnwhich the defendant. Long Island RailrnRoad shooter Colin Ferguson, acted asrnhis own counsel. “Of course, Colin’srnproblem was that he was a delusionalrnpsychotic,” New York attorney Ron Kuby,rnFerguson’s legal advisor, told thernNews. How Kevorkian differs from Ferguson,rnKuby didn’t say.rn—ScottP.RichertrnT H E EDUCATION CARTEL inrnTexas, and the Te.xas Education Agencyrn(TEA) in particular, have raised the bureaucraticrnart to new heights by congratulatingrnthemselves for failing to attainrntheir mediocre objectives. Consider arnreport, released by the Tax Research Associahonrnof Houston and Harris Countyrnand the Acres Home Chamber of Commerce,rnon the credibility of the I’exas Assessmentrnof Academic Skills (TAAS),rnwhich measures tlie achievement levelsrnof public school students.rnIt is bad enough that the standards testedrnare minimal, that many non-achieversrnare excluded from the findings, thatrnteachers are said to “teach the TAAS,”rnand that some schools (the Ausfin publicrnschools, for instance), alter the testrnscores. Now this research report tells usrnthat the recent rise in TAAS scores is thernresult of the gradual lowering of the standardsrnof the test over the past three years.rnFurthermore, the report reveals, thernTAAS generally does not test whether arnstudent meets even the minimum standardsrnof attainment for his grade level.rnInstead, the reading, math, and algebrarnsections of the T A A S test below gradernlevel.rnThe Texas Essential Knowledge andrnSkills (TEKS), an English and languagernarts test, was found deficient in definingrnthe reading proficiency expected at eachrngrade level. This same criticism wasrnraised by conservatives on the TexasrnState Board of Education before the reportrnwas released. For their troubles,rnthese conservatives have been reviled byrnthe TEA and Governor George Bush,rnJr.’s representatives.rnA recent poll found, as always, thatrnparents think the schools are doing arngood job and that their children are gettingrna good education. This flies in thernface of every comparison of U.S. schoolsrnwith their counterparts in the memberrncountries of the Organisation for EconomicrnCo-operation and Developmentrn(OECD). It also ignores studies thatrnshow that standards of academic performancernfall far below those of earlier days.rnIn a recent international academicrncompetition, U.S. high school studentsrnfinished dead last. But school bureaucratsrncontinue to deceive parents and taxpayersrnalike into thinking that ourrnschools are doing the best they can—andrnthat they could do even better with morernmoney. Even more disconcerting is therngrowing problem of educators faking studentrnperformance evaluations to protectrntheir bureaucratic hides from a realisticrnassessment of their own performance.rnAt a recent meeting of Texas consenatives,rnMaurice P. McTigue, a formerrncabinet minister and member of NewrnZealand’s parliament, described whatrnNew Zealand did to remedy a similar situationrnin 1989. A special commissionrnstudied the New Zealand public schoolrnsystem and found that, despite cries forrnmore fimding, only 30 percent of currentrnfunding was going into the classroom.rnConcluding that the situation was beyondrnsalvation. New Zealand scrappedrnthe whole system and reconstructed thernpublic schools oir the basis of truly independentrnlocal control. Each school nowrnhas its own board of trustees, which setsrnthe standards in the school’s charter.rnState inter’ention is limited to rec|uiringrna core curriculum and to evaluatingrnwhether a school meets the standards ofrnits charter. Parents hae the right to userntheir share of public school funding atrnthe school of their choice. In the pastrndecade, the educational performance ofrnNew Zealand students has risen from 85rnpercent of the OECD average to morernthan 115 percent.rnTexas —and the rest of the UnitedrnStates —needs a similarly radical alternatirnc to its public education system. Halfheartedrndabbling at reform will accomplishrnnothing. Minister McTiguernemphasized that real reform must berncomprehensive, radical, and surgical.rnOtherwise, the education bureaucracyrnwill mount a counter-attack to retake anyrnlost territory. Returning our schools torntrue local control is the real solution tornpoor public school performance.rnThat is very different from GovernorrnBush’s very limited goal of ensuring that,rnfive years from now, children will be ablernto read by the end of the third grade.rnShould we continue on our currentrnpath, the TEA’S T M S for third-gradernreading by that time mav do no morernthan test whether kids can tell the differencernbetween a book and a brick.rn—David HartmanrnJOHN F. KENNEDY, C.S. Lewis:rnNoember 1998 mingled recollectionsrnof two vastiy different men who died thernsame day of the same year. Pomp andrnpoignance, on the day of the Kennedyrnfuneral, left indelible memories of muffledrndrums, a young bo’s salute to his father’srncasket, a riderless horse cloppingrnflirough the streets.rnFuneral rites the same week for Lewisrnwere, in contrast, bare and stark. A merernhandful in attendance, old friendsrnchiefly; prayers tailored democraticallvrnfor king or commoner—”in sure and certainrnhope of the Resurrection to eternalrnFEBRUARY 1999/7rnrnrn