The divide among village commissioners on the value of higher education first came up months ago during the debate over hiring Paul Burris as Public Works director. At that point, the topic was relevant, as Burris had no track record with the village and education was a strong indicator of his competence. The debate has now been revived, this time between the commissioners themselves, and is being played out on our own letters page.

This time, though, the discussion is far less relevant. It is among the pettiest and ugliest of the many distractions that threaten to keep any matters of substance at a safe distance from the campaign trail in 2007. All of the five commissioners currently in office have at least one term behind them. They all have proven track records from which their competence, or lack thereof, can be judged. Their level of education may have been relevant the first time they ran for office, but at this point the only reason to discuss it is to take below-the-belt cheap shots.

One of the elements that makes Forest Park exciting is its diversity, especially now, as yuppies and ex-patriots from historically more affluent suburbs live side by side with long-time Forest Parkers.

By alienating those Forest Parkers who take great pride in the success they’ve managed to achieve without the advantages enjoyed by college graduates, Commissioner Patrick Doolin is hurting his chances of appealing to those who feel that the current administration is overlooking the town’s blue collar roots in favor of townhouse developers. He’s also showing a mean streak that is sure to turn off the many voters who choose their candidate based primarily on character.

Mayor Anthony Calderone may have brought the attacks upon himself to some degree. He always seems to get a kick out of flaunting the workshops and certificate programs in which he participates and boasting about how many mayors he interacts with. Voters are sure to ask why, out of all these mayors, he seems to build the closest bonds with those with the most questionable records. They need only to look back at the Anthony Bruno ordeal to see what kind of networking typically emerges from these political schmoozefests.

Calderone would be much better off heralding all that he’s accomplished without a degree ” running a successful business and becoming mayor of his hometown, for example ” than engaging in an endless shouting match on a topic that has no significance to the voters of Forest Park. Doolin would be better off sticking to the issues and attempting to repair the increasingly common perception that he’s a guy who has some great ideas but is too divisive to lead effectively.

Everyone would be better off letting this tired and useless topic die and never be heard of again. And next time anyone wants to accuse the paper of not printing enough intellectual content, they may want to first take a look at the level of the discourse we’re given to write about.