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Federal File: Cultural revolution?; Another 'no'

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Only a few weeks after its unveiling, the National Education Goals Panel's "community action toolkit" is being denounced by critics.

Made available in late September, the toolkit is a primer for communities discussing school reform, trying to understand the eight national education goals, and considering the setting of academic standards.

In addition to booklets containing tips on community organizing, dealing with the media, and evaluating a community's ability to reach the goals, the kit includes a cassette tape of four public-service announcements, a diskette version of its resources, and everything from sample community surveys to meeting sign-up sheets and speeches.

"People have to read it, and they'll see the heart of it is the notion of a real democratic process," said Ruth Chacon, the goals panel's spokeswoman.

But opposition is mounting.

A former U.S. Education Department official, Charlotte T. Iserbyt, wrote a letter to Education Week that the toolkit's intent is to "psychologically manipulate taxpayers into supporting Goals 2000," the Clinton Administration's standards-based school-reform strategy. (See Education Week, Nov. 2, 1994.)

Robert Holland, a columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper, wrote that the toolkit is "coming from Big Brother's helpers" and "sounds like something out of one of Chairman Mao's tool kits."

Mr. Holland linked standards-based reforms to outcomes-based education, and said the goals panel is part of the "systemic-change gang" that is out of touch with parents.

Ms. Chacon countered, however, that numerous parents, teachers, and average citizens in 10 cities had input into the toolkit's development. Numerous others, she said, were asked to read it and offer opinions on the final version.

Add Deputy Secretary of Education Madeleine M. Kunin to the list of opponents of California's Proposition 187, a ballot initiative that would deny education, health, and other social services to illegal immigrants.

In a speech to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco last month, Ms. Kunin said the measure would ask "teachers and administrators to become part-time employees of the border patrol" and "pit child against child and parent against parent."

--Mark Pitsch



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