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As Education Week marks its 20th anniversary, here are some of the people, events, and issues that were making news 20 years ago this week.

Dealing With Weevils: The National Education Association, reeling from withering criticism from the Reagan administration as a symbol of public school problems, is fighting back. The union targets seven Republican members of Congress and six Democratic members for ouster in the 1982 elections. They're urging their 1.8 million union members to get more involved with politics. And the union is mounting a broad-based effort to discourage the House "boll weevils"—Democrats who have tended to vote with the GOP—from breaking ranks.

Chief Concerns: Meanwhile, state schools chiefs, meeting in Oregon, say they are increasingly troubled by what they see as the Reagan administration's animus toward public education. The administration's preference for state block grants over federal programs gives state chiefs more leeway, but the chiefs are still worried. "We know what this administration doesn't like—rules and regulations and a federal Department [of Education]—but we don't know what they do like," says William S. Pierce, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Social Agenda A series of conservative-backed bills on social issues is advancing or pending in Congress. The Republican-controlled Senate passes a rider to an appropriations bill that prohibits the use of federal money to "obstruct the implementation of programs of voluntary prayer" in schools. Bills to limit or stop abortion and busing for desegregation purposes are resting in committees, delayed by Congress' focus on fiscal issues and moderate Republicans' tepid support.

In the Beginning A survey finds that 76 percent of Americans believe that public schools should teach both the theory of evolution and the biblical account of creation. Wayne A. Moyer, the executive director of the National Association of Biology Teachers, says that the poll question was confusingly written, and that while the Bible's version should be taught to children, "a science class is not the setting."

Cause and Effect?: Shortly after a press conference held to release a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report critical of the Reagan administration's desegregation efforts, the panel's chairman, Arthur S. Flemming, learned that the president plans to remove him and another member from the commission. Mr. Reagan is the first president to replace members of the commission, established in 1957, in the absence of resignations.

Naughty Noah Webster: The Texas state board of education supports state Commissioner of Education Raymon L. Byrum's decision to remove the Merriam-Webster New Collegiate Dictionary from the state's list of approved textbooks. The problem? The book includes the seven words from comedian George Carlin's act determined by the U.S. Supreme Court to be inappropriate for radio. Mr. Byrum had requested a really new collegiate dictionary, minus certain words, but the company refused.

Vol. 21, Issue 12, Page 6

Published in Print: November 21, 2001, as Retrospective
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