Good theater demands an intermission. So, too, the loudest show on earth: the campaign for president. It was great fun to watch Mike Huckabee strum the guitar with Jay Leno's band on "The Tonight Show" as he was soaring to the top of the Republican class in Iowa. Hillary Clinton's icy joke, needling David Letterman for his absence for two months on CBS ("all good things have to end") and dropping to third place in Iowa, was slightly less amusing. But that's showbiz.
"Entertainment Tonight" is the way to watch the candidates show off their talents and personalities, if any, but it doesn't cure what ails us and it doesn't make us think about tomorrow. Between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries, we need the short pause that refreshes. "Caucus," as Jay Leno reminded us, "is a Greek word which means the only day anyone pays any attention to Iowa.'" (He wrote that himself.)
New Hampshire is a horse of a different color in a race of a different order. While the jockeys nudge their nags into the starting gates and the tote boards adjust the odds, we might give a thought to what a race for president should be about -- a debate about real things. One of the most important real things is the sorry state of public education in our not-so-United States.
The sorriness varies from state to state, but almost nobody is talking about the dumbing down of education because so many people have too much to lose if we change things. Chester Finn, a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, put it bluntly in the Wall Street Journal: "The federal mandate to produce 100 percent proficiency [in math and reading] fosters low standards, game-playing by states and districts, and cynicism and rear-end covering by educators."
Conservatives who want local control of schools (as I do) shouldn't overlook the enormous disparities caused by federal standards that allow and enable each state to determine the meaning of "proficiency." Congress and the White House got behind "No Child Left Behind" legislation in 2001 as an efficient way to encourage the expansion of children's minds as the global stage expanded. We're still reeling from the unintended consequences of good intentions. These consequences cover a multitude of sin(ecure)s that makes it impossible to correct course.