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Positive Steps Taken for Education Policy Reform

Column by Michael K. Chung
Opinion Editor

Educational policy seems to have taken a turn for the better recently. On Thursday, President Bill Clinton passed the long-awaited Goals 2000 school reform bill. This bill will provide federal funds to states and school districts which adopt standards to meet federal guidelines regarding students' progress and achievement throughout their education.

Also becoming prominent in the issue of education is the feasibility of morals and values education -- an editorial in The Boston Sunday Globe claims that emphasis on "community building and what Alexis de Tocqueville called the habits of heart: neighbor caring for neighbor, personal responsibility, personal respect, and respect for others" is a worthwhile lesson for citizens regardless of age" ["Lessons in character," The Boston Sunday Globe, April 3].

The synthesis of the Goals 2000 program and the ideology of providing students with a strong moral base is an extremely potent reform measure not only for education, but also for helping to combat some of the problematic social issues that America faces today -- teenage pregnancy, and drug and alcohol abuse, among others.

However, it is absolutely essential that such moral issues are not neglected in the household. It is true that many students live in broken homes, have ineffective communication with their parents, or have apathetic or even misguided parents. Obviously, programs which focus on moral development may inspire such youths to aspire to a productive education, and help to focus them on the attainment of that education.

Utilizing the educational system to provide the nation's youngsters an ethical foundation is certainly not a new idea -- historically, young students have been taught, directly or indirectly, good manners, proper behavior, and moral virtue to at least some extent. For instance, the stories read by and to children often have themes promoting themes such as positive interaction with others, obedience to elders, and not harming people.

The school is not necessarily the proper place to heavily emphasize moral values, but it is a reasonable place to round out a student's education, since everyone has to go to school while young. The apparent lack of values and moral guidance across the nation can be partially blamed for some social issues and problems -- drive-by shootings and drug-related crime, to mention a few examples. The government cannot (and should not) go into homes and tell people how to live or how to raise their kids.

Of course, implementation of such potentially powerful policies will result in high expectations of the general public. If, after implementation of such "character building" programs, social problems among youngsters persists, or worsens, fingers will inevitably be pointed at the educational system and the government that administers the changes.

Nevertheless, it appears favorable and convenient to interweave these programs because money is required to do anything, and $700 million will be given to the program in 1995. Also, immediate action must be taken to attain the goals by the year 2000, and the upcoming moral building would only help matters.

To use the allocated money effectively, several issues in addition to those outlined in the Goals 2000 plan ought to be considered. For example, perhaps teachers' salaries should be raised to provide monetary incentive and reward to teachers, and so that potentially good teachers may be more attracted to the profession.

Parents not actively involved with their children's education should be motivated and encouraged to become more involved.

The possibility of longer school days or a longer school year to cover the moral education in addition to conventional material should be considered as well.

The passage of the Goals 2000 program is an important step forward in education. It establishes goals for the students of this nation. The additional focus on moral and ethical development is certainly worthy of consideration and implementation within the present school system. By providing revenue, Goals 2000 can effect its goals by adopting such a program of encouraging moral virtue. Whatever the case, parents must ultimately assume responsibility of their children, and do whatever is necessary for their proper development and maturity.