Published Online: March 3, 1999
Published in Print: March 3, 1999, as Federal File

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Elders speaks out

Former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders now lives far from Washington, but she's still not shy about criticizing the nation's education system.

The United States is a "health-illiterate society" that should focus on better health education in schools, she said during a Feb. 18 lecture at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.

Joycelyn Elders

The outspoken Dr. Elders, who has drawn fire for her positions on such matters as abortion, masturbation, and legalization of marijuana, focused on prevention issues during her 1½-year tenure as President Clinton's surgeon general.

She said she still sees critical problems facing young people: Drug use, teenage pregnancy, and sexually transmitted disease rates are too high, she said, and most poor children do not get proper health care and nutrition.

More money needs to be spent on early-childhood-education programs such as Head Start, comprehensive health education in schools, and programs to prevent youth violence, said Dr. Elders, who now teaches and practices pediatric endocrinology at the University of Arkansas Medical Center in Little Rock.

She said she still admires her former boss, Mr. Clinton, who fired her in late 1994 after she suggested in a speech that masturbation "perhaps should be taught in schools." However, Dr. Elders said she has no respect for his actions leading to his recent impeachment trial. She called his behavior "a tad ironic."

"If I were the first lady, I would have pinched his head off and told God he died," she said.

Replacing Gingrich

The chairman of the Georgia state school board, Johnny Isakson, won a special election last week to fill former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's congressional seat.

Mr. Isakson, a Republican and former state senator, helped draft standards for local school boards in Georgia during his two years as chairman. He was appointed to the board by former Gov. Zell Miller, a Democrat, in late 1996 to help ease tensions between state officials and the board.

Mr. Gingrich resigned from Congress after Republicans failed to make the gains he had predicted in last November's elections.

--Joetta L. Sack federal@epe.org

Vol. 18, Issue 25, Page 34

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