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State Journal: Global strife, Pardon me

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Teaching how crop production in South America might affect grain prices in the United States appears to be the kind of global education Iowa children might learn from.

Lately, though, Iowa lawmakers and other supporters of such "global education" have found themselves in a world of controversy.

A 1977 state law urges that lessons be taught with a global perspective and requires school districts to offer multicultural, non-sexist curricula.

The law has always had its detractors, but opposition mounted when an advisory panel suggested that the Des Moines schools teach about the contributions of gay and lesbian citizens. And last month, influential House Republicans were lobbying to throw the statute out.

State officials and others who have endorsed the law stressed that schools are free to approach the requirement on their own terms.

"Something like teaching with a global perspective can mean different things to different people," said Klark Jessen, a spokesman for the education department.

At a hearing on the issue, state Education Director Al Ramirez related the hypothetical South American drought example in defense of international awareness and then did his best to avoid the global conflict.

"It's a political fight for the legislature to wage," Mr. Jessen said, acknowledging that Mr. Ramirez "has intentionally taken a low profile on this issue."

Cody McGannon, a 10-year-old Missouri boy, admits that he recently lied to his parents about opening his bedroom window.

But when mother and stepfather decided to ground him for a week, he protested. Too harsh, Cody said. He asked his parents to let him out of the punishment earlier, and they teasingly referred him to the Governor.

Realizing his only chance for an appeal, Cody sat down that night and wrote the Governor to find out. His mother, bound by her word, faxed his plea the next morning.

Saying he was moved by the boy's "sincerity and persistence," Gov. Mel Carnahan responded on the same day with an executive pardon.

"I hope the authorities (your parents) are not too upset with me," Mr. Carnahan wrote, "and that they decide to accept my act of clemency in the same spirit of good will in which it was given."

--Joanna Richardson & Lynn Schnaiberg

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