As a columnist, I often find myself, along with so many Americans, stuck in the middle on issues.
For example, in one piece I may praise President Bush for choosing a strong Supreme Court nominee. In the next writing, I'll hit him for taking a five-week vacation (albeit a working one).
It's not that I don't have the right or the inclination to express strong opinions -- at least not after I first report and analyze the opinions of the American public through our polling.
It's just that I like to believe the op-ed world still has room for someone who can compliment Bill Clinton for one thing and George W. Bush for another. It's called giving credit -- or blame -- where it's due.
I may be more comfortable with this approach because I've been fortunate to know many of those I write about either personally or professionally. It has taught me that there are always two sides (or more) to every story.
Now if I can just pass on that open-minded philosophy to some of those who are members of a profession more important and influential than mine -- educators.
This past week, a high school student I know (but won't name for fear of grading reprisals) was attending his first day of American history class.
His private school teacher, doubtless bright and qualified, displayed his true colors right off by announcing that Ronald Reagan was a terrible president. His primary objection to Reagan apparently was the former president's involvement in the "Iran-Contra" arms-for-hostages deal that came to light during his second term.
I wasn't pleased that the teacher chose to fulfill his obligation to shape the views of young people by starting the first day of instruction teaching his own personal views instead of history.
Before the letters and e-mails start flooding in from teachers who teach as they should and don't want their profession maligned by one bad apple, let me assure everyone that I have immense respect and admiration for teachers. I can name many teachers who positively impacted my own life and to whom I owe much. And this high regard only increases as I witness the vital role teachers play in the lives of my own children.
So rather than just scolding this one history teacher specifically about Reagan, I'll share another side of history that teachers rarely get to see.
But first, let's start with the numbers. In February, the Gallup Organization conducted a national survey and found that -- surprise! -- Ronald Reagan is the nation's most admired former president. (None other than Bill Clinton was second.)