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Imagine You're Driving Down A Busy Highway...

Driver's education in the Leon County (Fla.) Public Schools was almost a little different this year: In July, school officials announced they couldn't afford to rent cars for the classes. “That's like wood shop without wood,” complained one teacher. A student called it “a whole semester of sitting.” Local parents and businesses agreed. They helped raise enough money to ensure that young drivers would be able to cruise on the road and not just in their imaginations.

We'd Welcome Back Kotter

OK, the TV networks produced some poignant documentaries on education last fall, but what image of schools do they really want to bring to the American public? Here's just a sampling of what else they've been showing this season. On an episode of Hull High (which NBC canceled in October), belching auto-shop students sit in a car they're supposed to be repairing, drinking brewskies and tossing empties out the windows, while a gorgeous new English teacher, dressed like a Madonna wannabe, wonders why her students can't concentrate on their lessons. In a segment from Fox's Parker Lewis Can't Lose, the title character videotapes his principal in a passionate embrace with a male teacher and then blackmails her. NBC's Ferris Bueller, inspired by the uninspired movie, features a young hero who uses a laptop computer to alter class rolls and take total control of his school. Musing on Beverly Hills, 90210, another new offering from Fox, one critic asked, “How many stereotypes can Fox Broadcasting fit into a one-hour show about life at a Beverly Hills high school?”

All I Had Was A Pepsi

To test students for alcohol consumption, Western Dubuque (Iowa) High School plans to buy a $500 breathalyzer similar to those used by police to test drunk-driving suspects. Principal Harold Knutsen says he has no problem proving that students who are “falling-down drunk” have been drinking. But, says Knutsen, “when you have a student who comes here with one or two or three beers, who's not stumbling all over, it's hard to determine exactly what they have been consuming.” That's where the breathalyzer comes in. “If I accuse a student of consuming alcohol, and they deny it,” Knutsen says, “they can request this to prove their innocence.”

A Modicum Of Obfuscation

At least one school board member out there is sick of education babble. At the start of the school year, Joe Simitian of the Palo Alto (Calif.) Unified School District proposed a “Say It In English” month for the district's board. The Palo Alto Weekly, a local newspaper, praised Simitian's good intentions, but it questioned whether board members were really capable of translating such jargon-ridden sentences as “FTE-certificated staff personnel facilitate conducive learning environments for K-12 students” into simpler ones, like “Teachers make learning fun for kids.” When it was suggested that board members put their money where their mouths were by docking themselves 25 cents every time they slipped back into “educationese,” Simitian had to draw the line. “We'd probably go broke pretty fast,” he said.

None Of The Above

On the first day of school, L. Rene Barnes, a French teacher at Alliance (Ohio) High School, gave her students a list of French people who have made an impact on history and asked them to identify each one. One student wrote that Jeanne d'Arc was “a soldier who was burned at the steak.”

Vol. 02, Issue 04, Page 84

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