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Strange Times At Santa Monica High

Larry Elder | June 7, 2002

What causes poverty?

A Santa Monica, Calif., high school teacher required his class to write an essay to address this question. Steve Miller, one of his students, attributed three things to poverty -- violent crime, government programs and irresponsible breeding. "In the United States," wrote Miller, "over the last 30 years, five trillion dollars (equated) have been spent battling poverty with no noticeable improvement. . . . Furthermore, according to the same study, when benefits for poor families are increased by one percent of the average personal income, the number of poor people living in a state increases by .8 percent." His teacher, a Bush-bashing, self-described liberal, gave him a low score of 58 out of 70.

An A-student in the class, Miller thought the grade unfair, a possible retaliation by the teacher against the young man's non-liberal worldview. To check, Steve approached a poor student in his class, and asked whether he might see his paper. That student wrote, "Economics is another reason that there is (sic) a lot of homeless people in the world, no job offers or anything. Some people are getting paid really low wages and they need the money sometimes so they can feed their kids or even thereselves (sic). welfare (sic) is really hard to get . . ." This student, too, received a 58.

What's worse, the poor student admitted that he began and finished his essay, barely over a page double-spaced, at around 4 o'clock that very morning. After asking the teacher to reconsider his grade -- a request that was declined -- Miller appeared on my radio show. He talked about liberal teachers who dislike non-liberal views, and who, in Miller's opinion, punish students for politically incorrect thinking.

Miller raised other issues. The California Education Code requires that grades K-12 "shall conduct patriotic exercises," interpreted to mean some patriotic activity like the Pledge of Allegiance. At Santa Monica High, however, administrators ignore the requirement. Miller asked several school officials to implement the policy, but officials informed Miller that they considered the Pledge of Allegiance optional, and refused to require its daily recitation.

Miller also questioned why a group called MEChA -- Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan -- receives student funds. After all, argued Miller, a look at MEChA's Web site indicates the group's intention to "retake" Southwestern America: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado and Nevada. This suggests, says Miller, a violent overthrow of America, something seemingly inconsistent with school policy. Why, Miller earlier asked several administrators, does MEChA enjoy school support and funding?

Some months earlier, at Miller's request, I spoke at Santa Monica High School. Before my speech, however, an administrator informed me that they intended to invite a liberal speaker to "provide balance" to my non-liberal views. But Miller informed my listeners that, since my appearance, the school has invited liberal speakers, with no non-liberal speaker apparently necessary to provide "balance."

A Santa Monica High School administrator, following Miller's appearance on my show, met with him for over an hour. The administrator spent half of the session accusing Miller of untrustworthiness, essentially for airing dirty linen. "How do I know I can trust you?" said the administrator. In describing the meeting, Miller said, "(The administrator) mentioned that you (Elder) were more aggressive, that you were paid to incite emotion, and that liberal speakers . . . weren't trying to change minds, but were recounting life experiences. He said regarding speakers like you (Elder), he had to be mindful of the impact and safety . . . He told me he wished I wasn't so 'narrow-minded.'"

Why does an Elder speech require balance, but a conservative did not follow a recent speech by a liberal? The administrator informed Miller that Elder "attempted to change minds," while other liberal speakers simply expressed their own personal experiences!? And, finally and incredibly, the administrator advised Miller not to "latch on to causes"!

What about at the collegiate level? The Center for the Study of Popular Culture examined the political registration of Ivy League humanities professors. Their conclusion? Ivy League professors are 19 times more likely to be Democrats than Republicans. (Fifty-seven percent Democrat, 3 percent GOP). "All that this survey shows," said David Horowitz, president of the Center, "is what we already know, that the elite universities are subsidiaries of the Democratic Party and the political left." Diversity? Of the 10 presidents of the California University system, all opposed Proposition 209, the successful ballot initiative to rid race and gender preferences in public hiring, contracting, and college and university admissions.

Many American students study under welfare-state-supporting, gun-grabbing, Constitution-ignoring leftists who suppress dissent. A recent 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upheld the race-based admissions policy of the University of Michigan School of Law. The rationale? The State of Michigan has a compelling state interest to seek diversity. But, as Steve Miller's experience at Santa Monica High School suggests, the term "diversity" means that of race, not of opinion.

Larry Elder is the author of the newly-released Showdown. Larry also wrote The Ten Things You CanÍt Say in America. He is a libertarian talk show host, on the air from 3-7 pm Pacific time, on KABC Talkradio in Los Angeles. For more information, visit