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Clinton and Dole Put Focus On Children in Debate Over Values

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Washington

The broad theme of values has been the battleground for the presidential candidates over the past several weeks.

And perhaps not surprisingly, much of the values debate between President Clinton and Sen. Bob Dole has revolved around children.

In the past month, Mr. Clinton, for example, has outlined steps to reduce teen welfare dependency, spoken out against teenage smoking, and endorsed a New Orleans curfew ordinance.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia on May 23, Mr. Dole called for a return to a time when "it wasn't politically incorrect for our parents, our schools, and our churches to instill some values in us."

The Kansas Republican told a convention of the Catholic Press Association that schools no longer serve that function.

"Many parents today view our public schools as hostile to their own deepest values," he said. "Instead of instilling hope and discipline, too often our schools breed resentment, despair, and mediocrity. Our schools are teaching recycling and aids prevention, but our kids can't add and too often aren't allowed to pray."

Without providing any detailed policy options, the all-but-certain GOP nominee reiterated his support for policies that allow parents to send their children to the public, private, or parochial school of their choice.

Later, in an appearance at a Cincinnati high school, Mr. Dole urged students to refrain from drug use and criticized Mr. Clinton's drug-control efforts.

Hillary Rodham Clinton's revelation in a recent interview with Time magazine that she and the president are interesting in having or adopting another child grabbed headlines.

But in the same interview, Mrs. Clinton also mentioned the possibility of a special health-care initiative focused on children.

"The president has said that in a second term he would look at how we could come up with a realistic, effective way of insuring kids. I think that would be a very good step for this country," she said. "Kids are cheaper to insure than us older, creakier people; but when they're sick, they are often more acutely sick."

Also in the interview, the first lady called for "a waiting period or cooling-off period" for divorces involving couples with children.

She said counseling programs should "be available, maybe even required" in such situations.

Mrs. Clinton also weighed in on the issue of parental rights.

"I believe there should be parental opt-outs if you don't want your child attending a certain health class, say, about sex education," she said. "But I don't think that gives parents who object to it on behalf of their own children the right to prohibit other parents who think it is in line with their values for their children to be given such information."

Conservative syndicated columnist Cal Thomas is urging Mr. Dole to make education a central issue in his campaign. In a recent column, Mr. Thomas wrote that "education reform is one issue Mr. Dole can make his own."

The columnist urged Mr. Dole to recruit the wives of Republican governors to "help him endorse a return to systematic phonics in every state."

He also said Mr. Dole should pressure Mr. Clinton on parental-choice programs that create competition in the public school system.

--Mark Pitsch

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