WASHINGTON — The chairman and ranking Republican member of the House narcotics committee criticized Education Secretary William J. Bennett today for not emphasizing the drug abuse issue in his proposal for a model high school curriculum.
Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), the chairman, said in a statement that Bennett "buried the drug issue, which students themselves say is the biggest problem facing young people today."
Rangel said Bennett, who proposed high school drug education only in grades nine and 10 as part of physical and health education, has neglected the mandate of his own 1986 booklet, "Schools Without Drugs," which calls for "a comprehensive drug prevention curriculum for kindergarten through Grade 12."
'Leaner, Meaner, Better'
Bennett on Tuesday prescribed "leaner, meaner, better academic medicine" for U.S. high schools in a dream curriculum that might require five or six years of study for some students.
As part of the imaginary "James Madison High School" program, students would be required to take physical education and classroom health instruction during their freshman and sophomore years. Three-quarters of each year would be devoted to gym, and the remaining quarter would be given to health.
Bennett's proposal also said: "Today, most of our high school students get their only reliable information about the dangers of drugs and alcohol in health classes. It is therefore imperative that high school health instruction be forthrightly anti-drug and supportive of good character and respect for law."
Drug Education 'Imperative'
Rangel commended Bennett for recommending a strong overall curriculum.
"But how does he expect children to study the subjects he is recommending if they are high on drugs?" Rangel added. "National leaders still do not see that drug abuse is overwhelming many of our children, in every school district, in every school.
"Isn't it time to have anti-drug education in every classroom in America?" Rangel asked. "It is imperative that drug abuse education be an integral part of the curriculum at all grade levels."
Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman (R-N.Y.), the senior GOP member of the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control, the panel's official name, had a similar reaction.
"Although I commend the secretary for his leadership in trying to improve the curriculum for our high school students, frankly, I am disappointed that he has buried drug education within a block of studies devoted to physical education and health only for those students in grades nine and 10," he said.