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Lamar Alexander, the former Governor of Tennessee who helped shape the agenda of the education-reform movement in his state and nationally, was expected to be named last week as the next president of the University of Tennessee.

The institution's board of trustees was scheduled to vote on Mr. Alexander's appointment last Friday. Earlier this month, an advisory committee to the board met with Mr. Alexander and unanimously endorsed him for the job.

Mr. Alexander earned a reputation as an "education" governor during his term of office, and was the driving force behind the National Governors' Association report on education reform, Time for Results. He also chaired U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett's 1987 study group on the national assessment of student achievement.

If the committee recommendation is accepted by the full board, the former Governor would become the 18th president of the university on July 1, when the current president, Edward J. Boling, steps down after 18 years in office.

A distinguished black educator has attacked the national best seller The Closing of the American Mind for its "profoundly wrong" view of students, a view he said had racist and elitist overtones.

In a speech to the Association of American Colleges in Washington, Clifton R. Wharton Jr., the former chancellor of the State University of New York, said this month that the book's author, Allan Bloom, treats curricular and pedagogic reform as "fundamentally beside the point.''

"The failings he sees as crucial are innate to students themselves,'' Mr. Wharton said of the University of Chicago scholar's work. "They are as much moral as intellectual failings, rooted in spiritual defects intrinsic to young people themselves, as well as to a society that asks too little rather than too much of itself."

Mr. Wharton, now chairman and chief executive officer of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association and College Retirement Equity Fund, objected in particular to passages in the book that attempt to explain why minority students on college campuses tend to remain separate from the community as a whole.

The author's explanations, he said, "embody a perspective so detached from the actual complexities of the situation, so supercilious in its pseudo-Olympian 'objectivity,' as to make ordinary, garden-variety racism look almost benign."

He praised, by comparison, E.D. Hirsch's Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs To Know, another national best seller. But he said that that book's "pragmatic" curricular goals were not enough.

"Much of what we find most intractable and most disturbing about academic performance, student behavior, and youth values," Mr. Wharton said, "is rooted in fundamental upheaval in the society, including powerful strains in the relationship between family, the state, schools, higher education, and the workplace."

Ninety-seven 6th-grade students at an Albany, N.Y., elementary school will be part of a new college incentive plan with a twist.

Under the "Albany Dreamers" program, a foundation established by a retired local businessman, Richard Yulmer, and his wife will pay for four years of tuition at the State University of New York at Albany if the students graduate from high school.

But unlike other programs of its kind, the Dreamers initiative is being coordinated through suny at Albany, which will provide the students with tutors, enrichment programs, and other educational activities in return for information to be used for research.

The Arbor Hill Elementary School was chosen for the project, said Linda Jackson-Chalmers, its principal, because it is the largest in the Albany area and has the highest number of minority children. Although most of the 6th graders chosen to participate are self-motivated and have indicated a desire to go to college, she said, the tuition program will now make that feasible.

Governor Mario M. Cuomo was present when the students were told of the program, and he took the opportunity to ask the children to support his proposal to provide state college scholarships to impoverished 7th graders. He asked them to write him letters in favor of the "Liberty Scholarship" program, so that he could validate its public support before the legislature.

Gen. Alfred M. Gray Jr., commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, has launched a campaign to help enlisted men and women obtain a high-school diploma or its equivalent.

In a message sent last month to all Marine commands, General Gray said that "all Marines who lack a high-school credential will be identified and counseled regarding suitable education programs."

According to a spokesman for the corps, 2,239 of the roughly 179,500 enlisted men and women on active duty do not have high-school diplomas.

She said the program was not new, but that the general had sought in his letter to draw commanding officers' increased attention to it. Enlistees may be counseled to earn their degrees while in service through programs at local high schools and accredited adult high schools, or through the General Educational Development program, the spokesman said.

William L. Lepley, the former superintendent of the Council Bluffs, Iowa, school district, began work last week as director of the Iowa education department. He succeeds Robert D. Benton, who left in August to take an administrative post at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh.

Mr. Lepley's appointment ended a long search process extended by the withdrawal in late November of the two top candidates. One of the finalists, Robert Maurer, the executive deputy commissioner of education for New York, told state officials he was withdrawing because the $66,200 annual salary was too far below his current salary of $92,120.

Gov. Terry Branstad and legislative leaders have agreed to raise the director's salary to $72,000 a year, with an $8,000 annuity. Until the legislature approves the new salary, Mr. Lepley's title will be acting director.

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