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Hot potato

The Irish potato famine of 1845-50 takes its place alongside the Holocaust, slavery, and genocide as required topics in New York schools, under legislation signed this month by Gov. George E. Pataki.

The bill makes law what the state board of regents this summer ordered public schools to make sure they teach: that the famine be explained as an example of historical abuses of human rights.

In signing the measure, the governor joined the bill's sponsors in contending that British complicity was more to blame for the 1 million deaths during the famine than the potato crop's failure.

"We must ensure that our children are educated to learn from past wrongs so that people of different ethnic origins are treated with respect and mutual understanding," Gov. Pataki said.

Critics doubt that the measure will achieve that aim.

Questioning the accuracy of holding the British responsible, Republican Assemblyman John J. Faso cited the governor's remarks as "an example of politically correct history."

"And I say that as someone who is half-Irish," he added.

Mr. Faso said lawmakers should leave such matters to local school officials.

Beyond stipulating that the lessons be discussed within the state's new social studies standards, department spokesman William Hirschen said, "how it's taught is a local decision."


The Ohio Supreme Court invoked the state's "sore loser law" in deciding that two incumbent members of the state school board cannot run again this year.

Virginia Purdy, a Republican from Leesburg, and Anita Tighe, a Democrat from Concord, had both attempted to seek re-election to their state board seats after losing primary races for seats in the Ohio House.

The high court went along with local county elections boards, which had earlier decided that both candidates were classic sore losers under the law.


Vol. 16, Issue 08

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