textbooks treat religion. The reaction from the staff researchersnwas as fierce as anything I’ve experienced innWashington: one called the proposal the worst he had seennin his entire career. We approved it anyway, and Vitznproceeded to write what is now recognized as the definitivenwork on this subject. His findings have been accepted byngroups ranging from the Free Congress Foundation tonPeople for the American Way. But the bureaucrats neverndropped their opposition. They even succeeded in pressuringnSecretary Bennett not to publish the Vitz study. Nonmatter how scholariy, research that treated religion as anserious social and historical reality was simply unacceptable.nThe more the public schools are dominated by centralizednagencies committed to such militant feminism andnsecularism, the more families will find themselves alienatednfrom those schools. No matter which side is right, suchnideological polarization is incompatible with the sharednvalues and mutual trust essential for effective schooling.nEqually incompatible with such schooling is curricularnfaddism. Headline-obsessed Washington inevitably getsncaught up in such fads: consumer education and environ­nHe sits on a bench, on upper BroadwaynBetween two lines of traffic, leaning on a cane.nHis hands bruised, his eyes fierce.nHis mouth pinched in disappointment.n”Did you have any trouble finding your way?”nHe offers half his pastrami sandwich.n”Eat. In traffic you need a father.”n”Thanks for the interview,” I say.n”Why me,nAn average Joe? You know, there were colorful Aces.”nA wino slaps at the traffic, entersnThe island, shoves his palm into the old man’snFace. “Gimme a quarter.” “You want to fly?”n”Yeah.” “Beat it, crud, you’re strong enough to work.’nHe turns away and the wino threatens.n”Throw your tantrums across the street!”nThe wino looks shocked, but obeys.n”Why make a film about that ancient war?”n”It was the last time we believed in heroes.nWe need that today.”n”We need sacrifice!”nHe bangs his cane, jabs it at a hookednMother marching into traffic, her childnHelpless at the curb. She stalks backnAnd smacks it furiously across its face.n”What were, you doing when the War began?”n”I cut patterns in the garment center.nI was a good student, mind you, butnMy folks were broke and my brother was faster.nWhen he finished law school he changed his namen28/CHRONICLESnWar Zonenby Frederick Feirsteinnnnmental education in the 1970’s, computers in the 1980’s. Itnthen helps create a climate that pressures local educators tonrush into these novelties before they know enough to makenintelligent decisions. Terrel Bell’s “technology initiative”nprovided plenty of grants and contracts for well-connectednconsultants, but we have yet to see any proof that it madenchildren smarter.nIn 1979, when the House of Representatives agreed by antiny margin to create a cabinet-level Department of Education,nit looked like a Pyrrhic victory. The electorate cleadynunderstood that the new department was a payoff to specialninterests, and Ronald Reagan’s pledge to abolish it was anneffective applause line on the campaign trail. A year eadiernthe House had actually passed tuition tax credits; it took angoal-line stand by the Carter administration to stop the billnin the Setiate. After nearly two decades of steady growth innbureaucrahzed schooling and steady decline in academicnperformance, the stage was set for a counterrevolution.nThe Reagan-Bush administration threw that chancenaway. Perhaps some future generation will recover it.nAnd moved upstate. He’s gone nown— With all his fresh air, his heart was weak.”nHe stands, stretches his arms in blessingnOver the traffic: “Our sole purpose is to propagate.nWhen a plane was crippled, the pilot sometimesnPulled out of formation to avoid hittingnThe healthy ones. That would cost him his timenTo bail out . . . Sure we thought of the glorynSome were afraid to be cowardly, but . . .”nHe shakes his head. “You can only feel shame whennThere are people around you who care.”nWe both look up Broadway, at the decayednBuildings, the heavy gates across the storefronts.nThe pimp cars, the old lady steppingnThrough a gauntlet of potential muggers.n”I’m tired. Will you walk me home? It’s getting late.’nHe lives above a shooting gallery. He pointsnTo the barred window with the American flagnAnd gives me the Latin names for all his flowerpots.n”I would like to invite you in,” he says.n”But it’s sunset, and this is a war zone.nCan we meet tomorrow in traffic.nYou bring the questions, I’ll bring the lunch?”n”Yes sir,” I say, and he salutes me,nI cross each avenue as if it isnA border.nMy wife greets me at the door,nA stricken look on her face.n