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State Journal: High School Fixation?; 'Jock' vs. English Major

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The recession and resulting budget cuts are adding to the perennial tensions between elementary and secondary and higher-education interests over state funding.

Although K-12 education has had to endure level or declining funding in many states over the past year, the public schools have largely escaped the severe cutbacks that have hit state-supported postsecondary institutions across the country.

The frustrations felt by New York State higher educators came to boil at a Senate hearing this month, where spokesmen blasted the legislature's decision this year to slightly increase local school aid while slashing postsecondary funding.

"I think it's a gross misplacement of priorities,'' argued Mark Lawton, the president of the state Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities.

"We're still fixated at the high-school level,'' Mr. Lawton added. "You can produce all the high-school graduates that you want and they don't have anywhere else to go.''

"I see intensely local politics,'' said D. Bruce Johnstone, the chancellor of the State University of New York. "I don't think it was a sound, substantive judgment about a tradeoff between óõîù [being] further downsized by this amount and more money to local schools.''

Two South Carolina lawmakers, meanwhile, still seem a bit fixated over differences left over from their own high-school and college years.

The airing of an age-old cultural gap came during debate in the House on a bill to ban use of so-called New Age thinking and meditation practices from state schools.

The bill, sponsored by Representative Michael Fair, would have prohibited "techniques that teach that reality can be controlled by mind power alone,'' or promote "the idea that morals are relative.''

Use of such methods can lead to increased violence in schools, Mr. Fair contended, while producing students who "don't know how to read like they ought to and how to add two and two together so it comes out to four.''

But Representative Timothy C. Wilkes warned that the measure would prevent the teaching of the works of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson and of "the kind of thinking that transcends the normal.''

"I was offended that I had to read Emerson and Thoreau,'' Mr. Fair retorted.

"You were a 'jock,' and I was an English major,'' Mr. Wilkes recalled.

Mr. Fair's bill ended up losing badly, going down on a 69-to-32 vote.

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