Federal File: Getting real; Departmental pep rally

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The federal budget deficit wasn't mentioned as a "core subject'' when the national education goals were drafted, but one Washington-based advocacy group hopes to put the issue on teachers' agendas.

Lead ... Or Leave, a year-old organization of twenty- and thirtysomethings seeking to rally young people to demand action on the nation's fiscal troubles, last month unveiled what they characterized as a deficit-reduction curriculum for high school students.

"What's missing is the political constituency to force [deficit reduction] to happen, and that's where young people come in,'' said Jon Cowan, a Lead ... Or Leave co-founder.

The curriculum, called "Get Real!,'' carries the endorsement--and name recognition--of Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., and Rep. Susan Molinari, R-N.Y.

It is to be published in Scholastic Inc's. fall 1993 Update magazine; mailed by the National Education Association to its members; and promoted with radio, television, and print public-service announcements.

Other distribution methods are planned, and organizers say they are aiming to reach as many as 10 million high school students and collegians, who will be the focus of teach-ins on the deficit featuring members of Congress.

The curriculum, which includes handbooks for teachers and students, suggests six learning activities.

It asks students to evaluate media coverage of the issue, look for examples in popular culture that illustrate the impact of the national debt and deficit, write letters to members of Congress, debate the issue, develop a proposed budget to reduce the deficit, and take a quiz on what they have learned.

Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley this month introduced his senior policy staff to Education Department employees at a getting-to-know-you session outside the department's headquarters.

Acknowledging the department's low morale and management problems, as well as its dreary surroundings, Mr. Riley quoted a country-music song to express how he felt when he first assumed the job: "I don't know whether to shoot myself or go bowling.''

On a more serious note, Mr. Riley and Deputy Secretary Madeleine M. Kunin vowed to have a strategic plan for the department in place by December, improve internal communications, and break down barriers between political and career employees.

Mr. Riley said the meeting, which was broadcast by radio to the department's regional offices, was only the first in what will be a series.--M.P.

Vol. 13, Issue 06

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