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Column One: Curriculum

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A North Carolina university professor is spearheading a drive to establish a statewide, residential school for social studies in that state.

If John Rimberg's plan takes shape, the new school would be the first of its kind in the nation. It is modeled after the well-known North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics and similar programs in other disciplines around the country.

"We have put so much emphasis on giving students choice in the comprehensive high school we're losing sight of the core curriculum that everyone needs to learn," said Mr. Rimberg, a professor of sociology at Pembroke State University and a graduate of a specialized high school.

As envisioned by Mr. Rimberg and other proponents of the idea, the social-studies school would begin with the 11th grade. It would emphasize foreign-language study, offering courses in as many as 15 languages, ranging from Arabic to Housa. Pupils would be required to take at least one language along with intensive surveys of the culture, geography, and history of the countries where it is spoken.

And, as is the case in the state's mathematics-and-science school, teachers at the school could earn up to one-third more than the average North Carolina teacher.

The idea builds on a plan by former Gov. Terry Sanford. He proposed establishing state-run boarding schools in four subject areas: mathematics and science, art, social studies, and the humanities. One such school--the North Carolina School for the Arts--was set up during his tenure. The mathematics-and-science school was created more than 15 years later under former Gov. James Hunt.

Unlike those schools, however, the social-studies school may not be state funded, Mr. Rimberg said.

"It would be foolhardy for us to go to the legislature," he said, noting the state's current tight budget constraints.

He is, instead, holding four conferences on the plan this spring and aims to formally pitch the idea to private donors by summer.

The Cold War may have ended long ago, but thousands of students in the Soviet Union are still waiting for American pen pals, according to the Soviet-American Penfriend Exchange.

The New York-based group says it continues to receive more than 50 letters a day from Soviet citizens looking for Americans with whom them can correspond. Most of the writers are between the ages of 12 and 18 and can write in English.

Educators interested in setting up such an exchange for students may contact: Soviet-American Penfriend Exchange, P.O. Box 1828, Canal Street Station, New York, N.Y. 10013-1828.--dv

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