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Federal File: Conservative Manifesto

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The Heritage Foundation, the influential policy-research organization here, has published an 83-page booklet outlining a conservative education agenda, the first in a series of Heritage publications called Critical Issues.

The foundation last week gave a copy of the monograph, "A New Agenda for Education," to the new secretary of education, William J. Bennett, said the book's editor, Eileen M. Gardner. Ms. Gardner is the group's education-policy analyst.

The other contributors are Thomas R. Ascik, a senior research associate at the National Institute of Education; Annette Kirk, a member of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, and Russell Kirk, director of the social-science program of the Education Research Council of America; Philip F. Lawler, president of the American Catholic Conference; and K. Alan Snyder, director of Historical-Political Research Services in Fairfax Station, Va.

Together, these authors strongly condemn trends in American education over the past few decades. "The recurring theme of this volume is that centralized control of education has failed," the booklet says.

The analysts call for a number of steps that are "compatible with many other goals of the Reagan mandate." These include:

The appointment of a Presidential commission to study the "merits of centralized vis-a-vis decentralized education." This panel would also re-examine "what constitutes a proper education for handicapped children and who has primary responsibility for this education."

The confirmation of English as the nation's official language and the discouragement of bilingual education, which, the booklet claims, "encourages fragmentation."

A stepped-up effort to pass tuition-tax-credit and voucher legislation, which, once passed, would not be deemed to constitute federal aid or subsidies to private schools benefiting from them.

The training of teachers to be expert in academic disciplines, rather than in pedagogy, and rigorous teacher-certification and testing plans. The booklet calls for the elimination or reform of departments of education in colleges and the transfer of pedagogical instruction in academic departments.

According to the foundation's director of research, Burton Yale Pines, the Critical Issues series is intended not just to offer a conservative critique across a broad range of issues but to advance a conservative agenda.

In many areas, such as programs for the poor, civil rights, and education, "while the conservative critique ... is well known, the conservative agenda is not," Mr. Pines wrote in the booklet's foreword.

Future analyses will offer a conservative agenda for welfare and civil-rights policies, Mr. Pines noted.

For a copy of the $5.95 booklet, write to Dept. G, The Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Ave. N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002.--jh

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