Books Not Bombs

Tonight it is purported that we will hear the president in front of cadets from West Point tell the nation and the world that we will commit an additional 30,000 US troops to the war in Afghanistan at a cost of $1 million per soldier per year. I don’t profess to know what is best for the world and our ultimate safety as a nation, however I do know our national security is threatened significantly by our failing public schools.

More than 40 percent of all Latinos and African-American students do not graduate from high school. The Economic Policy Institute informs us that 20 percent of America’s children live in poverty. The unemployment rate is double digit and growing.  Can we continue to be the world’s police and nation builders? Can we afford to divert our attention from rebuilding our nation’s schools and colleges?

“On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord…we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age,” President Obama said at his inaugural last January. Three words proliferated around Washington D.C. during the Inaugural of the 44th President of the United States: Hope, Change and Peace. 

My son and I witnessed the solemn ceremony of this tranquil change of power embodied in our constitution from the Capital lawn a few hundred feet away from the presidential podium. We felt the enormous historical power of the moment through our chilled bones as our hearts were warmed with the belief that we were experiencing a rebirth as a nation. We were so close that we could feel the percussion from the artillery pieces used for the 21-gun salute immediately upon the completion of the oath. These guns were sounds of hope. I’m not sure the guns our soldiers will be using will bring the same result.

Here is my take on the situation. I continue to support our president, but my hope for change is dimming. After a three month thoughtful and deliberative process on assessing the Afghanistan-Pakistan dilemma, the commander-in-chief has decided to up the ante.

Even George Will and the Ambassador to Afghanistan are opposed to the escalation. A few weeks ago on Meet the Press Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania said, “our troops are tired and worn out.”

I’d say let’s put our money and efforts into rebuilding our public school system, not just by promoting charter schools, but by investing in the best reading programs for every one of our 1st-3rd grade students. Let’s make certain all our students once they leave 8th grade understand our constitution and its Bill of Rights.

If we shift $70 billion a year from the war effort in Afghanistan to US education we gain $6,000 more for each student in 1st through 3rd grade. Using best practices with reading we can ensure all 3rd grade students read at grade level, the key to success in life. Our need for prisons, federal assistance, unemployment insurance, homeless shelters, etc. would drop precipitously.

I know it’s not going to happen, but that is the real change I had hoped for on January 20, 2009. My audacity to still hope is fading…

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion.


  1. Who knows what pressures are being applied to Mr. Obama? “We The People” aare far down the list of interest groups to whom he owes his allegiance. This unfortunate reality is a direct result of Big Government.
    The same reasons that I did not trust Obama to do his job faithfully apply to Big Education. You lobbyists talk a good game but when a gullible public finally gives you all the money and power you ask for, we will see that you are still beholden to the special interests that helped you gain power, and education will take a back seat.

    Note to Editor,
    I’m sick of having to retype comments after being stymied on the first attempt because there’s no word in the “submit the word you see below” box.
    Isn’t this the hi-tech capital of the world? Aren’t there people who are supposedly out of work- suffering, hungry, etc., who know how to fix this sort of thing?

    • > Isn’t this the hi-tech capital of the world?

      Oh, John!  Hi-tech is S-O-O-O-O yesterday.

      This is the TWENTY FIRST CENTURY!

      It’s the era of Hopey-ness and Changey-ness!

      We are now the CIVIL SERVANT RETIREMENT BENEFITS capital of the world.

      Retired civil servants may be laying in the gutter and starving in Bangladesh, and Mali, and God-forsaken places like that.


      We as a society INSIST that our retired prison guards, our retired teachers, and our retired legislators—ESPECIALLY OUR RETIRED LEGISLATORS—have the best possible quality of life in their dotage that a grateful people can provide.

      You Grinch!!!

  2. It’s amazing that there are still people out there who feel that more money = better results…and it’s scary that those people have political power.

  3. Joseph,

    Your “… hope for change is dimming.”  I think you expected too much from a well-dressed carny barker.  Rather than divert taxes from the war effort, it looks like the Feds may be filching yet more money from our wallets.

    U.S. LAWMAKERS PROPOSE WAR TAX:  In a sign of the battle ahead for the Obama administration over extended war deployments, a core group of senior House Democrats has unveiled a plan to raise taxes on individuals and businesses to offset the cost of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. For most individuals, the war surtax would increase their current federal income tax burden by 1 percent. But the bill would exempt any military service members who have been deployed to the combat zone since the 2001 terrorist attacks, as well as their spouses and anyone related to a service member who died in Operations Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom. Service members and extended military families were exempted, the bill’s sponsors said, because they are the only ones who have made any sacrifices for the conflicts, which have been funded through debt. Bill sponsors – who include some of the most powerful Democrats in the House – call the legislation the Share the Sacrifice Tax Act of 2010. Reps. David Obey, D-WI, the House Appropriations Committee chairman; John Murtha, D-PA, who chairs the committee’s defense appropriations panel; and John Larson, D-CT, the Democratic Caucus chairman, said in a joint statement: “We believe that if this war is to be fought, it’s only fair that everyone share the burden.”  (Defense News, 11/30)

    • I feel the War Tax is a great idea.  How in the world can people expect a war to be fought without paying for it?  If you want a war then pay for it.  That is one of the definitions of patriotism.

        • If you support the war then you should certainly help pay for it. If you don’t, then I understand your reluctance. Which is?

  4. Joseph,
    Please pass this on to your students!
    If you’d like to give input on Police practices to the Consortium in San Jose you can contact:

    Kimberly Barsamian Kahn, the CPLE Site Coordinator for San Jose at [email protected]

    Or Dr. Goff. He has repeatedly assured people that he encourages their participation and he will not reveal the names of the individuals he has spoken with.  If the individual is a member of a group he has worked with he may reveal the name of the group, but not the individual member.  Dr. Goff has provided his direct email at [email protected]

    Also regarding the hiring of the new IPA. If you want to give input:

    The City is currently in the process of recruiting and selecting a new Independent Police Auditor.  Because the IPA plays a significant role in bridging communication between the community and the San José Police Department, it is important that the community provide input regarding the qualities of the new IPA they believe are essential. Recent events have revealed that while the responsibilities of the position are mandated by City Charter there is a desire in the community to strengthen and expanded this relationship and to participate in the selection process of the new auditor.  Avery Associates, the executive search firm conducting the recruitment, has set up an email address to invite community input; this email address is: [email protected].

  5. Joseph DiSalvo sayeth:

    > More than 40 percent of all Latinos and African-American students do not graduate from high school.

    Children of white, Joe!!! Children of white!!! 

    How do failing public schools affect children of white in America?

    Are children of white just pieces of furniture (albeit furniture that is tainted with problematical “white culture/values”) to be pushed around by educrats in order to create an environment where Latinos and African-American students can succeed?

  6. As long as corporate CEOs who live in Atherton and Hillsborough are able to write checks to federal, state, and local elected officials who approve wars for the benefit of the corporate gang who decide our national interest as they plan to live in Switzerland and/or in villas expensive islands near India and Southeast Asia, we will have wars to protect their interest.  They work to bring soccer here in order to make us familar with the high density life style.  Worker bees live in high density hovels while the drone civil servants service the elite queens and their sports.

  7. Joe Average…. what do suggest if you don’t think money=better results? Of course, money should not be a main factor to get better results. But, more money can help provide more resources for teaching children and making the schools better. Students tend to want to go to nicer schools that a run down school. Which would you enjoy more? Would you rather the money be going to the war where people are getting killed? It’s ridiculous. It frustrates me that people do not know how to work together to make things better. Start from the core….. and work up! It sounds easier than it is but it’s better than doing nothing.

    Does Obama have any plan for education? If so, what is it?

  8. Just wanted everyone to know that I’m OK.
    For those who have been living in a cave, you may be unaware that I was the target of a “cyber-bullying” attack.
    Last night, right after NCIS starring Mark Harmon, somebody known only as “stymied comments” posted a very sarcastic remark implying that I am a “blowhard”. He may or may not be right about that. “Windbag” might be more on the mark. Or “know-it-all”. Or
    But that’s not the point. Hundreds of billions of people each year are victims of “cyber-bully” attacks. Most of them die instantly, or are maimed for life.
    Few survive.
    I was one of the lucky ones. I’d been having a little trouble with a bout of pinguecula so naturally I had a patch over one eye when I read the comment. The doctors say that was what kept me from absorbing the full impact of the comment and- you guessed it, saved my life!
    I know how concerned you all were, even if you don’t say so.
    Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.
    Let’s see if we can’t put this ugly incident behind us and work together to ensure that SJI is a safe sanctuary for all the people of our village- well, for the feeble liberals anyway.

    • John Galt,
      Welcome to Cyber Bully Survivors Anonymous. We are a group of veterans whom have battled the blogs, the ignorant, and survived to fight another day. We are the few, the proud, and the Fearless Conveyers of Truth whom march to the tune of independent thinking in a world led by the brainless masses. Our mission? To defend and protect “Truth, justice, and the American way!”

      Thanks for the laugh John. wink Hope you feel better soon. May the force be with you!

  9. “Let’s make certain all our students once they leave 8th grade understand our constitution and its Bill of Rights.”

    While I hesitate to correct Joe’s excellent education and excellent teaching skills, the word “constitution” as used in the above sentence is a proper noun, not a common noun, and must always be capitalized just as he capitalized “Bill of Rights.”


    The Proper Noun (def):  “Nouns name people, places, and things. Every noun can further be classified as common or proper. A proper noun has two distinctive features: 1) it will name a specific [usually a one-of-a-kind] item, and 2) it will begin with a capital letter no matter where it occurs in a sentence.”

  10. I’m not sure I understand the direct connection, still, between the quality of education and national defense. Some Communist countries with wholesale indoctrination as an education policy have had pretty good national defenses.

    Although, admittedly, Afghanistan is much to your point. They have had horrid, politicized public education where there is any education at all, and look at their state of affairs today.

    • Although, admittedly, Afghanistan is much to your point. They have had horrid, politicized public education where there is any education at all, and look at their state of affairs today.

      Even worse, look at their religious indoctrination, or brain washing.  No wonder that part of the world, and our country to a lesser degree, is in such bad shape.

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