THE UKIAH DAILY JOURNAL OPINION MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 14,1987 EDITORIAL Teach the past, not just skills In a report released recently by the National Endowment for the humanities on the state of humanities education in American public schools, NEH Chairman Lynne Cheney tells of visiting with a group of students at John Marshall High School in Los Angeles. The students had won the 1987 U.S. Academic Decathlon by becoming experts on the U.S. Constitution. They not only knew the basics about the Constitution, Cheney writes, they knew its origins in European thought. They knew about the framers' fascination with the classical world. The intriguing thing about the John Marshall champions is that they represent a school where more than three-quarters of the student body learned English as a second language. Thirty percent of the students on the decathlon team were born in other countries. Cheney asked them why, given their diverse backgrounds, they had become devoted students of this country's founding. "They seemed to think this an odd question," Cheney writes, "but finally one of them answered, 'Because we're here.' " Because we're all here together, a basic understanding of our collective past is vital; that would seem to be self-evident. Unfortunately, as the NEH report — entitled "American Memory" — documents, the John Marshall students are exceptions. Many American schools are failing to teach students about their shared past and culture. They seem to believe, Cheney writes, "That we can teach our children how to think without troubling them to learn anything worth thinking about," that "we can teach them how to understand the world in which they live without conveying to them the events and ideas that have brought it into existence." The report alludes to a 1987 study conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which came up with disturbing, though not altogether surprising, information. According to the study, more than two- thirds of the nation's 17-year-olds are unable to locate the Civil War within the correct half century. More than two-thirds cannot identify the Reformation or Magna Carta. By vast majorities, students were unfamiliar with Dante, Chaucer, Dostoevsky, Melville and other writers whose works are regarded as classics. "American Memory" targets a host of culprits: curricula that focus on skills at the expense of knowledge; textbooks that are boring and irrelevant; a system of training and sustaining teachers that emphasizes how to teach rather than what shall be taught. The report recommends specific improvements in each of these areas. The recommendations are useful, and so is Cheney's warning to a culture that ignores its shared past. "We put our sense of nationhood at risk," she writes, "by failing to familiarize our young people with the story of how the society in which they live came to be. Knowledge of the ideas that have molded us and the ideals that have mattered to us functions as a kind of civic glue. Our history and literature give us symbols to share; they help us all, no matter how diverse our backgrounds, feel part of a common undertaking." Letter policy The Journal welcomes letters from our readers. However, we reserve the right not to print those letters we consider may be libelous, in bad taste or a personal attack. Letters must not exceed 300 words in lenght and should be typed and double-spaced. All letters must be signed and include an address and phone number for verification. Anonymous letters will not be printed. Addresses will not be printed, but the writer's name will appear. Because of the volume of letters received, some letters may be edited because of space requirements. Almanac JACK ANDERSON How nuclear industry buys protection WASHINGTON — If a Chernobyl-style nuclear disaster occurs at one of America's nuclear power plants, victims and their families could suffer financially as well as physically, if Congress renews the existing limited-liability law. The Price-Anderson Act, passed in 1957 and renewed in 1967 and 1977, limits a nuclear plant operator's liability to $700 million for a single accident. This ridiculously low sum wouldn't begin to cover the deaths, personal injuries and property damage that would result from a nuclear meltdown, especially at a plant located in the densely populated areas of the country. In fact, the General Accounting Office estimated last June that a catastrophic nuclear accident would cause $15 billion damage under average weather conditions. Heavy weather that spread radiation over a wider area could increase the damage to as much as $150 billion, the GAO figured. Despite these appalling possibilities, Congress is considering a renewal of Price-Anderson that, although greatly increasing the cap on liability, still wouldn't come close to raising it to a realistic level. The House passed a renewal bill July 30 that raises the single- accident liability to $7.4 billion. The Senate is expected to resume debate soon. How does the nuclear power industry manage to maintain such clout on Capitol Hill? We'll give you a hint: The crucial factor may be cold, hard and green. Nuclear power lobbyists outspent their opponents by roughly 6 to 1 during the six-month period from last November to April. According to Ralph Nader's Public Citizen, nuclear industry lobbyists spent $356,797, while environmental and public-interest groups spent $61,667. During the same period, the industry fielded eight times as many lobbyists as Price-Anderson opponents did. Even more disturbing are the sizable sums that key members of Congress receive for speaking to nuclear industry gatherings. These "honoraria" go directly into the politicians' pockets, and often require the honorable member to do little more than clear his throat at the podium. Sen. Bennett Johnston, D-La., has been a recipient of the nuclear industry's largesse. As chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Johnston is expected to lead the fight to renew Price- Anderson in the Senate. Our reporters Stewart Harris and Jennifer Smith reviewed the senator's financial disclosure file and found that in 1986 he was paid a total of $11,000 for six appearances before nuclear-related groups. Among the companies that paid Johnston up to $2,000 were General Electric, Westinghouse, Edison Electric and Pacific Gas and Electric. Johnston's predecessor as committee chairman, Sen. James McClure, R-Idaho, was paid $4,000 last year for speeches to nuclear industry groups. Nuclear utilities and their contractors have also plowed millions of dollars into the campaign coffers of sympathetic members of Congress through corporate political action committees. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a vociferous and determined opponent of Price- Anderson renewal, analyzed the industry's campaign donations. Among other things, the researchers found that members of Congress who voted for renewal of the industry-subsidizing law routinely got two to three times as much in contributions from nuclear power PACs as those who voted against. Not surprisingly, both Johnston and McClure are members of the nuclear power industry's "$100,000 club." Since 1981, the two pro-nuclear senators have each received more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from industry PACs, according to the Public Interest Research Group. Footnote: An aide for Sen. McClure maintained the contributions and honoraria did not influence the senator's thinking. The country's energy independence depends on the stability of the nuclear industry, the aide said, and it needs the Price-Anderson Act to effectively plan for the future. Sen. Johnston was not available for comment, but in the past he has argued that failure to extend the act could mean insufficient compensation for nuclear accident victims. CARVING UP SAM — Within minutes after Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., announced that he wouldn't run for president in 1988, the men he might have run against were eagerly seeking — and getting •— campaign contributions from would-have-bcen Nunn backers. The big beneficiary was Sen. Albert Gore Jr., D-Tenn., who picked up several modcratc-to- conservativc Southern fat cats who had been keeping their checkbooks open for Nunn. Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., also won some contributors as a result of Nunn's dropout. But one Democratic strategist told us that Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis may be the biggest gainer in the Ions run. Here's how the source explained it: Dukakis is an irreversible liberal, but Gore is not. To pick up conservative Nunn contributors, Gore can move to the right. But this could lead labor and other traditional liberals to switch their allegiance — and their dollars — to Dukakis. Smiling Mike's fundraising is already phenomenal. He has so much dough he can afford to have five full-time fundraisers working wealthy Floridians, while his rivals are lucky if they can field a single full-time money-squeezer in that fertile state. Today in History By The Associated Press Today is Monday, Sept. 14, the 257th day of 1987. There are 108 days left in the year. Today's Highlight in History: On Sept. 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key wrote his famous poem "The Star-Spangled Banner" after witnessing the British bombardment of Fort McHcnry in Maryland. On this date: In i807, former Vice President Aaron Burr was acquitted of a misdemeanor charge two weeks after he was found innocent of treason. In 1812, the Russians set fire to Moscow after an invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte's troops. In 1847, U.S. forces under Gen. Winfield Scott took control of Mexico City. In 1901, President William McKinlcy died in Buffalo, N.Y., of gunshot wounds inflicted by an assassin. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt became president. In 1927, modern dance pioneer Isadora Duncan died in Nice, France, when her scarf became entangled in the wheel of her sports car. In 1940, Congress passed the Selective Service Act, providing for the first peacetime draft. In 1948, a groundbreaking ceremony took place in NewjYork at the site of the United Nations' world headquarters. In 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower met in Newport, R.I., with Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus, who pledged to uphold court-ordered school integration, but also pleaded for patience. In 1963, Mary Ann Fischer of Aberdeen, S.D., gave birth to America's first surviving quintuplets, Four girls and a boy. In 1975, Pope Paul VI declared Mother Elizabeth Ann Bayley Scton the first U.S.-bom saint in an outdoor ceremony at the Vatican. In 1985, Shiitc Moslem extremists in Lebanon released the Rev. Benjamin Weir, an American missionary, after holding him captive for 16 months. Ten years ago: White House News Secretary Jody Powell apologized to Sen. Charles Percy for encouraging the publication of damaging information about the Illinois Republican, who had been critical of embattled budget director Bert Lance. Five years ago: Lebanon's president-elect, Bashir Gcmayel, was killed by a bomb that shattered the headquarters of his Lebanese Christian Phalangist Party in east Beirut. Princess Grace of Monaco, who had gained fame as American movie star Grace Kelly, died at age 52 of injuries she had suffered in a car crash the day before. One year ago: President and Mrs. Reagan appeared jointly on radio and television to appeal for a "national crusade" against drug abuse. Today's Birthdays: "Lone Ranger" Clayton Moore is 73. Television newscaster Hughes Rudd is 66. Actress Zoc Caldwcll is 54. Feminist author Kate Milieu is 53. Actor Nicol Williamson is 49. Singer- actress Joey Heatherton is 43. Actress Mary Crosby is 28. Thought for Today: "History must always be taken with' a grain of salt. It is, after all, not a sc icncc but an art." — Phyllis McGinlcy, American poet (1905-1978). Editorial Sampler Sept. 8 Los Angeles Daily News on federal money for air safety: For more than a year, members of Congress have complained about the Reagan administration hoarding the Aviation Trust Fund to make the federal deficit look less bad than it is. The increase in commercial air travel has placed the nation's airports, air traffic controllers and air traffic control equipment under an unprecedented strain, and yet nearly $5.7 billion earmarked specifically for aviation improvements has accumulated in Washington. Sept. 6 Duluth (Minn.) News-Tribune & Herald on the plight of Mathias Rust: OK, the Soviets had to take the invasion of Mathias Rust seriously. They lost a lot of face when the West German teen-ager flew his light plane across the Soviet border and landed in Red Square. The feat was so remarkable it has drawn worldwide attention. It made the country look vulnerable. It made the country look stupid. From the viewpoint of the Soviet regime, it was a total disaster, On the other hand, no real harm was done. Washington Wire Reagan is confused WASHINGTON (AP) — You can tell things aren't going well when the man in charge admits the situation is confused, as President Reagan did the other day in pressing his case for the Nicaraguan rebels he calls freedom fighters. Addressing a group of presidential appointees as he returned to duty after a 25-day California vacation, Reagan sought to reassure conservatives who fear he has gone too far to accommodate forces seeking peace in Central America. "We will not abandon our friends in Nicaragua," he said. "We share their desire for peace, prosperity and democracy. And we will support them in that quest just as we've supported them in the past." That support in the past has meant fighting hard for congressional appropriations to assist the Contras battling the country's leftist Sandinista government, most recently with $100 million in military and other aid that runs out Sept. 30. Two new elements were injected into the mix last month, however. On Aug. 5, the administration announced it had reached agreement with House Speaker Jim Wright, D-Texas, on a proposed peace plan and that further requests for aid would be held up while the new approach was tried. • Then on Aug. 7, leaders of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala agreed on a somewhat different peace plan, calling for an end to outside military aid, at a meeting in Guatemala City. The administration has applauded the Guatemala City effort, but at the same time cautioned that while the plan calls for democratic reforms in Nicaragua it lacks guarantees that they actually would lake place. Some' conservatives fear that cosmetic moves toward democracy by the Sandinistas could be used to justify a cutoff of further aid to the Contras. Even some White House officials are uneasy, and point out that Reagan's national security adviser, Frank C. Carlucci, was out of town when the president signed on to the Wright peace plan. Ukiah Daily "Journal %F Mendocino County, California Donald W. Reynolds, Chairman of the Board Thomas W. Reeves, General Manager John Anastasio Managing Editor Denise Hall Bruce Schlabaugh Advertising Director Victor Martinez Eddie Sequeira Display Advertising Manager Yvonne Bell Claire Booker Circulation Manager Member Audit Bureau of Circulations LOCALLY OPERATED MEMBER DONREY MEDIA GROUP Composing Supervisor Press Supervisor Officer Manager —DOONESBURY J MR£ STILL IN PHOENIX... I 6VHYAM 1&6NING? EASY.,. 9-H e GUYCOM&ACWSSASAN I6NOMNT 0I6O7. HZ MAKES INSANE APPOINTMBNTZ. H&5 LOSING THB 5TAT& MILLIONS INBUSINESS... IMEAN,0/fWI YOU THINK AgOUT IT, IS Thtf£ ANYONE l&S SUlTtP QUICK, SACK PONALP TRUMP* o ' ...ANPI THINK. /WSTAM&f- CANSUANT WLK-IN cwsers!
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