William Bennett

From Academic Kids

For other uses, see William Bennett (disambiguation).

William John Bennett (born July 3, 1943) served as United States Secretary of Education from 1985 to 1988. He was also the first person to occupy the post of "drug czar".

He is a member of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and was one of the signers of the January 26, 1998, PNAC Letter (http://www.theindyvoice.com/index.blog?entry_id=417960) sent to President William Jefferson Clinton.

Bennett was born in Brooklyn, New York. After moving to Washington, DC, he attended Gonzaga College High School. He graduated from Williams College, and went on to get a PhD from the University of Texas in Political Philosophy. He also has a law degree from Harvard Law School.

From 1976 to 1981, he was the executive director of the National Humanities Center, a private research facility in North Carolina. In 1981, President Reagan appointed him to head the National Endowment for the Humanities.

He served here until Reagan nominated him, in 1985, to be the Secretary of Education.

He articulated the conservative position on affirmative action, school vouchers, curriculum reform, and religion in education. He asked colleges to enforce drug laws. He supported a classical education rooted in Western culture and derided multicultural courses. He frequently criticized schools for low standards. He resigned this position in 1988, in the final days of the Reagan Administration.

As Secretary of Education, he tangled with educational establishment (which he dubbed "the blob" (bloated educational bureaucracy) over the following reform measures he espoused:

  • competency testing for teachers
  • opening the teaching profession to knowledgeable individuals who have not graduated from "schools of education"
  • performance-based pay
  • holding educators accountable for how much children learn
  • an end to tenure
  • a national examination to find out exactly how much our children know
  • parental choice of schools (The De-Valuing Of America, page 44) (http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0671797190/ref=sib_fs_pop/102-1238761-6183333?%5Fencoding=UTF8&p=S014&checkSum=UbyI1K8PemRb%2BNvVBOSWZTfDsmrcHrudWdK6ZgGHXw8%3D#reader-page)

He was appointed to the post of Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy in 1989 by President Bush. He was confirmed by the Senate on a 97-2 vote.

Long active in United States Republican Party politics, he is now a conservative author, speaker, and host of weekday radio program Morning in America (http://www.bennettmornings.com). He was frequently quoted throughout the 1990's for his books and opinion pieces. In these writings, he denounced a perceived lack of virtue in American society, particularly among young people.

In 2003, it became widely known that he was a high-stakes gambler who had lost millions of dollars in Las Vegas. As a Catholic, Bennett's gambling was not forbidden, but some felt it conflicted with his public image as a leading voice for conservative morals.

After Bennett's gambling habit became public knowledge, and after he admitted having lost as much as $8,000,000, he claimed he was never addicted to gambling and compared his gambling to responsible drinking. Bennett did, however, say that he does not believe that his habit sets a good example and he now claims to have quit gambling for good.

Bennett's best-known work may be The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories, which he edited; he has also authored and edited ten other books including, The Children’s Book of Virtues, and The Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals.

Bennett is a staunch supporter of the War on Drugs and has been criticized for his extreme views on the issue. On a radio show, he said that a listener's suggestion to behead drug dealers would be 'morally plausible'.

While a graduate student in philosophy at the University of Texas, Bennett, then a rock fan, was set up on a blind date with Janis Joplin, who was then at the height of her singing career. According to People magazine, the date "must surely rank as one of the least likely blind dates of all time." In later life, Bennett would condemn rock fans as immoral. When asked what he and Janis did on their date, Bennett joked, "Hey, that really is none of your business."

He and his wife, Elayne have two sons, John and Joseph.


Preceded by:
Terrell Bell
United States Secretary of Education
1985–1988
Succeeded by:
Lauro Cavazos

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