The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on January 6, 1986 · Page 4
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 4

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Salina, Kansas
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Monday, January 6, 1986
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Page 4
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Opinion The Salina journal Monday, January 6,1986 Page 4 T1 ^tiUfiiFifci T 1 1 he Journal Founded in 1871 HARRIS RAYL, Editor and Publisher KAYBERENSON, Executive Editor SCOTT SEIRER, NewsEditor LARRY MATHEWS, Assistant News Editor LORI BRACK, Weekend Editor JIMHAAG, Night Editor MARY JO PROCHAZKA, Associate Editor Molly Blackburn South Africa's chances of avoiding a bloodbath diminish daily. But there was a crumb of hope in reports from the funeral of white anti-apartheid activist Molly Blackburn, killed last week in an auto accident unrelated to South Africa's racial violence. In spite of the 20,000 black activists who crowded around the church in a white neighborhood, there was no violence. Marshals from the United Democratic Front, the main antiapartheid movement, kept order in tribute to her work. Blacks and whites mingled peacefully. Molly Blackburn's funeral, like her life, proved that blacks and whites are not natural enemies. She was known as an ardent foe of police brutality against blacks. She got involved, she had told a reporter, because "I don't like bullies.'' Another anti-apartheid leader said of her, "She simply did not compromise with injustice." She earned respect and honor from black South Africans for her actions. That should be a lesson to her fellow countrymen. Wedded bli$$? Marrying for money has grown to barbaric dimensions in India. Two people recently were convicted there of burning women to death because of too-small marriage dowries. Hundreds of women are burned to death each year in India by in-laws angered by insufficient dowries. And many cases don't come to light because they are simply reported as "cooking accidents," social workers say. Fortunately, it looks like the government is cracking down. The two convicted bride burners are to be publicly hanged. They'll be the first two people put to death since India gained independence in 1947. We don't approve of capital punishment, but it's reassuring to see India's leaders begin to treat wife killings as the crimes of murder they are. What others say A voiding mush Hutchinson's school superintendent tried (recently) to sell the Kansas Board of Education an idea for a solid advance in Kansas education. He was pretty much alone in the sales job. Unfortunately, he has been surrounded by education people who prefer mush in public education. Bill Hawver asked the state board of education to put some muscle into a desperately needed state merit pay plan for teachers. A timid state task force on education has decided that the Kansas Board of Education need only waft a few kind words over the idea and "encourage and assist" local boards to develop merit pay plans. That approach is mush, as much as it is timid. What needs to be done, as Hutchinson's superintendent tried to tell them, is to put some money in the pot. Incentive, or merit pay, plans are needed. They can be worked out to the agreement of teachers, adminis- trators and all other citizens. Hutchinson has done it. The only thing that prevents implementation of this dramatic program to improve education is money, which should come from the state Legislature. Bill Hawver tried to tell the state Board of Education that fact. Will the state board listen, and push for a solid advance in pubb'c education? Or will the state board settle for mush, as preferred by the teacher unions and all others who'd rather just keep their fingers crossed and hope for the best? The legislature should put some muscle into the merit pay concept. Hutchinson has shown the way. Teachers, administrators, and citizens can agree on a fair and exciting plan. The legislature should help put the Hutchinson plan to a test by directing the modest amount of money needed to all districts who can qualify. —The Hutchinson News Unlikely miracles Miracle cures, medicinal and otherwise, are to be looked upon with caution. Two such cures were offered in recent days, both coming from state officials. One came from the State Treasurer Joan Finney, the other from Gov. John Carlin. Speaking to a farm rally in Hutchinson, Finney said she plans to submit legislation to set up an interest subsidy plan with $3 million in state funds. Under her plan, farmers threatened with foreclosures would receive state assistance to stall closure actions, a buy-down of the interest rate. The other plan, which was announced by the governor, involves roads and highways. Starting next year, the governor wants the Kansas Legislature to set up a state revolving fund with $30 million in the till, the money to be loaned, interest free, to various commu- nities for special road projects. He also sees the state sweetening the pot each year and the recipients paying the state back over 10 years. No one can question that many Kansas farmers need help. Too, we all want better roads. But, in its present financial condition, can the state afford further subsidies created with our tax dollars? On paper, the ideas might appear great, however, in the past decade we have seen similar projects tried on the federal level to do everything from supporting peanuts to building low-income housing. Look at the shape the federal government is in. We need to hold Uncle Sam up as a horrible example, not follow his lead. —The Ottawa Herald Support ag agency A couple of weeks ago Gov. John Carlin was stumping pretty vigorously for a fundamental change in Kansas politics. The change is probably a pretty good one. What Carlin wants to do is eliminate the state Board of Agriculture and in its place create a state secretary of agriculture, a cabinet-like position. The greatest difference would be in the way the state board is chosen and the way the secretary would be chosen. Since it was created nearly 114 years ago the 12 members of the State Board of Agriculture have been chosen by delegates selected by members of the various farm organizations. A secretary of agriculture on the other hand would be appointed by the governor with the consent of the Senate. With the State Board of Agriculture changed to just an advisory board, of course, its duties would be assumed by the governor's office through the secretary. They include appropriations of water in the state, regulating weights and measures, dairy and meat inspections, chemical uses, noxious weeds and service on the fair board. Those are all very, very important in Kansas, particularly water appropriations. And the problems as Carlin outlines them are that the board isn't answerable politically to the people of the state and there isn't the contact between the board and the governor's office that there should be, particularly now when that close liaison is so sorely needed. One reason the governor didn't mention, probably for political reasons, is that because of the diverse stands always being taken by the various farm organizations, it is difficult for the board to reach a consensus on difficult but important agricultural matters. The governor will probably make the change by executive order in January. If so, the Legislature would need to endorse it for it to become effective. In our opinion, both should do so. —The M cPherson Sentinel Fairness is still elusive in post-modern divorces BOSTON — The bare outlines of the O'Brien story are familiar, classic, even banal. Two young people get married. Nine years go by. He studies. She works. He gets an M.D. She gets a P.H.T. (Putting Hubby Through). Then he files for divorce. In the old days, five or maybe 15 years ago, couples like Michael and Loretta O'Brien probably got a Traditional Divorce. The law back then was drawn by its architects to ask a moral question: Who was at fault for the breakup of the marriage? It was a messy design, but after a bit of wrangling, perhaps some perjury and a whole lot of moral judgment, a divorce was usually granted. To the "innocent" went the alimony. More recently, such a couple faced a Modern Divorce. Between 1970 and 1980, the courtroom was trimmed of baroque moral judgments, streamlined for contemporary life. Fault was banned from the law because it was an anachronism, rather like a gargoyle on a glass skyscraper. The thoroughly Modern Divorce, with its pristine, hard-edged outlines, divvied up the past and the visible property — a car, a bank account, a house. It was designed with a wistful belief in fresh starts. But Loretta and Michael O'Brien are part of the avant-garde of legal architecture. They became the owners of a Post-Modern Divorce. A new pillar, a new touch had been added to the modern structure. Loretta O'Brien claimed, and the New York Court of'Appeals agreed, that Michael O'Brien's medical degree was just another piece of property. Since that property was gained during the marriage and with the financial investment of his partner, Loretta was entitled to a part of her ex-husband's Ellen Goodman WASHINGTON POST future income. She will get 40 percent of its assessed value, or $188,000 in 11 annual installments. The decision was not unique. There are now at least six states with similar cases on the books. In Michigan, a wife was awarded a share of a law degree. In Washington, a wife got a share of her husband's license to practice dentistry. There are also six states that have ruled the other way. The argument is intriguing because it comes out of the recent attempts to reform the divorce reform. Modern Divorce looked wonderful on the drafting board, but it has provided little shelter for women and children. As Stanford's Lenore Weitzman points out in her utterly convincing study of "The Divorce Revolution," divorce reform has been a financial disaster. Today, on average, the standard of living for a divorced woman and children goes down 73 percent in the first year while her husband's goes up 42 percent. Under the roof of Modern Divorce laws, courts have treated husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, even M.D.s and P.H.T.s with an evenhandedness that is, in effect, unfair. Property has been divided both equally and inequitably. Now, the Post-Modernists want to remodel a more livable space. Today, they argue, the major financial worth of a middle-class American family may not be in the bank account but in the company pension balance, may not be in a house but in an insurance plan. A couple's time and energy and money may not go into stocks and bonds but into a license or a degree. The courts are being asked to think about "career assets" when they tally up the property for any divorce settlement. The trickiest of all those "career assets" has to be the one featured in the O'Brien case. The P.H.T. was always an honorary degree, a loving tip of the hat. It is the rare professional who doesn't believe at heart that he or she got that degree by individual labor. One person studies. One name appears on a license. It isn't easy to price an investment in education when one doctor goes into brain surgery and another chooses missionary work, when one lawyer goes to Wall Street and another to Legal Aid. At the same time, as Loretta O'Brien said, "I feel I should be compensated for the blood, sweat and tears of those years, when I had the whole financial burden on my shoulders." What is marriage if one person makes all the investment and the other is allowed to leave with the rewards? How different is her financial interest in a medical license from her interest in any other business? On the whole, I approve of this new pillar of Post-Modern Divorce because it may shore up the fragile status of some divorced women. But it is still flawed. Indeed, the architecture of divorce has been under constant renovation for the past 20 years, but it never seems quite right. Fairness is as elusive as ever. Have you noticed how hard it is to find a sturdy structure when the one called marriage falls apart? Regents strive for quality, despite being poor Sandra McMullen of Hutchinson is chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents for the second time in five years. She is one of the state's lay experts in education, has devoted much of her young life to it at all levels and now begins her eighth year as a regent. It's an "interesting time," she says. "What a challenge. What a time to get to work.'' Is this woman nuts? Licking her lips to get at the teeth of education in this state at a time when politicians and bureaucrats are either locking vaults or hobbling budgets in the face of monumental headaches in the Kansas treasury? "Sure we're poor. That doesn't mean we shrug it all off because we don't have any money," McMullen says. Is she mad? Where are her aspirin? Where are her reams of notes by which she would call the speaker of the House a skinflint and a miser; where are the gloves she must lace before the bell and round one with the budget director? Where is the acid for her tongue? McMullen is chairman of the state board that supervises administration of the state's six universities and Kansas Technical Institute. She is a former trustee at Hutchinson Community College and was first appointed to the regents by Gov. John Carlin in 1979 and elected chairman in 1981. She was reappointed to a second four-year term in 1983 and elected chairman again last Dec. 20. As her second term ends, the regents face a year in which the Kansas revenue forecast is bleak, to be optimistic. John ,- Marshall f j HARRIS NEWS SERVICE "There is no sense in panic. We simply must do better with what we have. We must make sure that the core of education in this state is always strong," she says. This simple pronouncement is especially important at a time when so many others are in panic because their pursuit of the material has been stalled by lack of another material, money. For many years we measured higher education, especially at our universities, in numbers and bald physical bigness. The talk at university receptions and dinners was always of buildings and enrollment, appropriations from the Legislature and influence of benefactors; we needed more buildings, more students, more appropriations, it seemed, because more was better in a world without end. The atmosphere was almost vulgar. There was even talk about recruiting high tech industries "like those in the Silicon Valley," a business that now rivals big oil and television preachers in sleaze, smugness and greed. There is nothing wrong with big enrollments and lots of buildings for all the stu- dents, so long as they are a means to an end. We should desire more buildings, healthier enrollment, greater teacher salaries that our universities become the people's powerful agent in making this state more liveable. It isn't so important to turn out 10,000 seniors with diplomas and degrees. It is more important to turn out seniors who would help make their communities cleaner, more decent and liveable; more liveable by the simple wisdom of kindness and gentility if nothing else. We need this, as we tumble toward the 21st century loaded with more clubfooted material gods than even Donald Trump or Boone Pickens could dream up for sale. We work so hard at piling up material wealth in oil, junk bonds, mergers, hi-tech shops, sports palaces, media networks and safety nets for crooked executives and sympathetic juries that we could program the Declaration of Independence in the singular, sell it as a rock album and the few lawyers west of Overland Park who might know the difference wouldn't care much. Only institutions like ours can breed sentiment in students, and the public, that will make all men and women wiser in what is equitable, what is decent, what is liveable. Sandra McMullen's chief message is that we will hear less from the regents about material progress in the name of numbers alone. It is said that money makes a university. Money is naturally important, but as a means to an end, not the end itself. Doonesbury HECANTfWM5,0UTHE!U- OPPOKJUNITY! INFiACT, I CAN ONLYM/NKCF \

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