.FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18, 1996 EDUCATION NEWS THE SALINA JOURNAL Educators, historians question legislating history Law requires New York students to study Ireland's potato famine in 1840s By The Associated Press NEW YORK — Ireland's potato famine changed New York forever. The Great Hunger of the 1840s drove more than a million Irish to New York's shores — immigrants who quickly stamped their culture and values on their new land, building railroads and cathedrals, becoming police officers and politicians. Under a state law signed last week, all public school students over 8 must be taught about the mass starvation in Ireland. A 1994 law already requires that New York schoolchildren learn about slavery, the Holocaust and genocide. New York has taken the approach further than most, but other states also require students to be taught about certain historical events. The question, for many educators and historians, is whether any of these tragedies should be written into the law. "This business of each group getting its own victimization written into legislation is a very bizarre way of studying history," said Eric Foner, a history professor at Columbia University. "As a historian and a teacher, I believe that people ought to know about the Irish famine. But I'm not thrilled about the state legislature deciding what should be consid- ered historically important." Assemblyman Joseph Crowley of New York City said he sponsored the legislation because the potato famine "had a tremendous effect on the United States, but particularly in the state of New York. A great many of those people came here." An estimated 40 million Americans claim Irish ancestry, and many can trace their roots directly to ancestors who fled the famine. In Florida, state law requires the teaching of the Holocaust in schools. Montana's Constitution recognizes the distinct nature of American Indian culture and declares the state's commitment "in its educational goals to the preservation of their cultural integrity." In New Jersey, the Irish famine and the Armenian genocide were added to the curriculum this year as part of a 1994 law that requires the study of the Holocaust and genocide in general. That move upset some Jewish leaders, who argued that including other atrocities dilutes the horror of the Holocaust. Christopher Cross, president of the Council for Basic Education, argued that some aspects of history are better taught as heritage, by families and communities. The council is a Washington-based nonprofit organi- zation that advocates rigorous liberal arts education. "The Irish famine might not be as relevant to French-Canadian conV munities or to New York students up near the Canadian border," Cross said. "For them, it might be more relevant to learn about the French Revolution." Ron Davis of the United Federation of Teachers in New York said good teachers will continue to use all sorts of examples, including the famine and the Holocaust, to teach aboUt starvation and human rights. "Educators don't have to have this mandated," he said. "They know what to teach." FARRAKHAN V LOUIS FARRAKHAN Justice takes look at trips by Farrakhan Nation of Islam leader being scrutinized for possible violations By The Associated Press WASHINGTON — Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan's September trip to Libya and Cuba is being reviewed by the Justice Department for possible violations of U.S. law. The autumn trip prompted Justice officials to extend the inquiry into Farrakhan's travels that they originally began last January when he visited Libya and other countries under U.S. economic embargoes for supporting terrorism. "The review continues, based on additional travel," Attorney General Janet Reno said during her weekly news conference Thursday. On the second trip, Farrakhan postponed accepting a $1 billion gift and a $250,000 award from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, because the U.S. Treasury Department refused to authorize it. Farrakhan said he would challenge the Treasury's ruling in U.S. courts. The Supreme Court has ruled that U.S. citizens have a constitutional right to travel anywhere in the world. The only remaining law against traveling to embargoed countries bars using a U.S. passport to do so. Another law prohibits spending U.S. currency in such countries. But Justice officials have said that embargoed countries learned years ago that their U.S. visitors could avoid violating these narrowly written statutes if the host country paid their expenses and did not stamp their passports. The Justice review also has examined whether Farrakhan had become an agent of the Libyan or other governments. T HURRICANE LILI Cuba set to evacuate thousands By The Associated Press ISLAMORADA, Fla. — Leaving eight people dead in its wake across Central America, Hurricane Lili closed in on Cuba with 75 mph winds Thursday and unloaded rain on already saturated South Florida. Cuba said it was ready to evacuate 86,000 people in the Havana area, and a hurricane warning was posted for two-thirds of the island. The hurricane was expected to cross Cuba early Friday, squeeze through the Florida Straits separating Cuba and Florida, and head for the Bahamas. Forecasters said Florida will probably get no more than a glancing blow. On Thursday afternoon, Lili was centered about 185 miles southwest of Havana and 415 miles southwest of Miami. It was moving northeast at 9 mph. Lili left thousands homeless and stranded more as rain-gorged rivers made bridges and roads impassable in Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua. 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