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OC HI: STUDENT NEWS AND VIEWS : Schools Feel Chill as GOP Takes Charge

March 03, 1995|DAVID KHALAF | David Khalaf is a junior at Foothill High School in Tustin.

It probably compares best to the magnificence of an iceberg: strong, cold and unstoppably determined in its course.

The new majority of Republicans in Congress is out to induce change at whatever cost. Talk shows and news broadcasts teem with Republicans who claim that their time has finally come.

Having won with a platform that includes family values and improved quality in schools, the Republicans plan a turnaround in many programs developed by Democrats over the past 40 years.

This means that the GOP plans to aim some of its biggest bullets at schools and teens, and students in Orange County are no exception. By targeting the Democrats' sacred cows, the Republicans have apparently made it their first priority to get revenge on the opposing party instead of improving the nation.

Arguments over Proposition 187 have fueled the fire of controversy, and the discussion over bilingual education in California has fanned it some more. With a proliferating Latino community and increasingly restrained budgets, Californians are more concerned than ever over whether schools should require non-English-speaking students to be taught in English or allow them to learn in their native language. A $7.5-million program launched in 1968 granted public schools the money for bilingual programs, with the purpose of mainstreaming non-English-speaking students into society as quickly as possible. Democrats treasure the success this nationwide program has experienced.

Many Republicans want to push for a mandatory English policy that may end the debate but not solve problems. Although Republicans want to give schools more individual flexibility in decision making, extinguishing bilingual programs and their funding will only constrain schools. It may be impossible for schools that want to provide bilingual education to find financial support.

The Republicans' plan to say adios to bilingual education is preposterous. If it is eliminated, schools will take a step back in the struggle for multicultural harmony, and many students may find themselves growing up in a segregated society. The only GOP logic I see offered in changing this program, which has served schools for so long, is that it is was conceived by Democrats.

*

Soon after winning control of Congress, Republicans said one of their foremost goals was to push for prayer in public schools. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) plans to push for a constitutional amendment to permit organized worship in public schools, which is sure to be a heated topic. Independent Democrats view the intermingling of education and religion as a violation of personal rights--that is, one's right not to pray.

President Clinton has made pleas to establish a common ground and told Republicans that "we ought to look for ways to work together" on the issue. But some Republicans seem to have forgotten the meaning of the word compromise. I wonder whether they really believe that prayer in school will improve family values? Or does it simply represent vengeance against Democrats?

Still more Republican issues will affect schools. Some conservatives want to erase minority-preference laws, which assist in the hiring of minorities for federal contracts. Such a move might eventually extend to financial aid for minority students and could hurt many high school students, as well as re-establish an old world that Democrats had hoped to transform--one dominated by an educated and predominantly white population.

I have to wonder whether the new majority in Congress is really taking into consideration the welfare of all citizens.

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I fear that when the leaders of the nation shift the foundation of schools and society for the mere purpose of agitating each other, they are slowly disintegrating the nation.

Yes, Republicans are like an iceberg now: strong, imposing and relentless. They have solidified into a great mass that plans to freeze Democrats in their tracks.

But if the Republican Party is an iceberg, I worry that the United States is the Titanic.

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