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E.D. Alters Magazine To Reflect Reagan Policies

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Washington--The current issue of American Education, the Education Department's monthly magazine, reflects a controversial new editorial policy aimed at transforming the publication--known for its light features on schools' uses of federal funds--into a thoughtful journal of articles by political conservatives and of scholarly opinion.

The new format seeks to "introduce a diversity of opinion on the arguments that are currently raging in the education world," says Richard R. Elwell, the magazine's editor. And, unlike the old American Education, "there will be articles that raise questions about the use of federal money" for education, he says.

Reduced Role

The new editorial policy was conceived by Reagan Administration officials who believe the magazine should reflect the President's concept of a sharply reduced federal role in education, according to John B. Roberts, the department's director of publications.

An attempt to initiate the policy last fall created confusion and turmoil within the department when certain staff members of the publication resisted the change in format, Mr. Roberts says.

In particular, staff members resented the presence of a consultant who says he was hired to oversee the change because of his "contacts in political journalism." The consultant, Marvin Liebman, says he was criticized by the magazine's staff for soliciting the editorial advice of scholars at two Washington-based conservative research organizations. The two scholars, from the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, suggested articles for the current issue and referred him to possible authors for future articles, says Mr. Liebman.

Conservative Views

After two of Mr. Liebman's memoranda outlining his goals for the publication--including one in which he wrote of a desire to see that American Education was "devoted to 'conservative' views on education"--were made available to the press without his consent, the con-sultant left the department. He is now the director of public affairs for the National Endowment for the Arts.

'All Doctrine'

The associate editor of the publication, Edith B. Roth, says she objects to the new format because "it's going to be all doctrine, [with] no 'fun' pieces. This magazine was always neutral politically, and it was suddenly made to go one way, the way of the Administration."

Ms. Roth says she is writing an article for an education journal that will describe "the staff's experience" with the magazine's transformation.

Ms. Roth and one other member of the magazine's seven-person staff will be forced to leave their jobs at the end of February because of a reduction in force in the department.

The January/February issue, the first to incorporate the editorial changes, contains mostly articles that already have appeared elsewhere, a situation that will change as the editorial staff commissions original articles, Mr. Elwell says.

Included in the current issue of American Education are an article on "character education" from Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (excerpted in Education Week, Sept. 14),; a piece entitled "What Are the Courts Doing to Our Children?" from The Public Interest, the neoconservative quarterly; a reprint of a Time magazine article on improving the quality of education; and an original article written by a National Institute of Education (nie) researcher on the nie-sponsored study of effective schools.

The issue, which features no photographs or editorial drawings, was an "experiment" to see how the magazine's 21,000 readers would respond to the radical change in format, Mr. Roberts says.

Three Sections

Future issues will be loosely divided into three sections, he explains. "The 'policy' section will include an in-depth examination of current federal education policy, written by staff members. The 'issues' section will include give-and-take on controversial topics. The 'programs' section will look at the microcosm--school programs, not necessarily those that receive federal funds," he says, noting that the new format also will introduce a letters-to-the-editor column.

But despite the recent policy change, he says, American Education's future is not secure. The Office of Management and Budget has scheduled a review of the magazine for sometime before March 15, and federal budget officials may decide that even a politically conservative magazine is too expensive to operate, says Mr. Roberts.

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