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EDUCATION WATCH : Pull the Plug

October 07, 1994

U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley is nothing if not a realist. He has just released a plan, "Strong Families, Strong Schools," aimed at raising the level of parents' involvement in their children's education. It includes a list of "Seven Good Practices for Parents," all of which deserve warm support. But reading them suggests what teachers are up against these days.

Good Practice No. 6 begins: "Make sure your child goes to school every day. . . . " Doesn't that go without saying? Talk to a truant officer or two before you say yes.

In the same category of light-one-candle modesty is Good Practice No. 3: "Limit television viewing on a school night to a maximum of two hours even if that means that the remote control may have to disappear on occasion." Two hours? Some parents permit no after-supper television at all on school nights, and we endorse their practice. But we do not fault Riley, who is honest enough to begin at the beginning.

Because both parents in many of today's families work outside the home, part of the program is directed at employers, including the federal government. Under the new initiative, President Clinton has directed all federal agencies to encourage "flexible family-friendly work arrangements, including job sharing; career part-time employment; alternative work schedules, telecommuting; and satellite work locations."

All of that does indeed have something to do with a parent's finding time to read to a child. But so does a weeknight television blackout for the readers-to-be. Try it, parents.

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