Some broadcast and cable programs contain material included in the public school curriculum and on standardized examinations. Here are viewing tips:
* Today--"Alaska" (TRV 8-9 p.m.) A look at our largest state, including its kayakers, glacier climbers and denizens of a town called Chicken, population 25, where there's no electricity, running water or phones.
* Friday--"Life & Times: Special on the Mentally Ill" (KCET 7-8 p.m.) In the years since the state of California closed many public mental-health facilities, Los Angeles County's Twin Towers jail has become the largest de facto mental institution in the nation. Hosted by Warren Olney and Val Zavala.
* Saturday--"Rush for Riches--Gold Fever and the Making of California" (CSPN2 5-6 p.m., repeats 8 p.m.) This BookTV interview program features historian J.S. Holliday discussing his book on the 1849-1884 Gold Rush. Also, "Sita and Son" (DISC 8-9 p.m.) Nature documentary about a family of wild tigers in a protected area in India's Badhavagarh National Park.
* Sunday--"CNN Perspectives: Soldiers of Peace--A Children's Crusade" (CNN 7-8 p.m.) In 1996, a group of children in Colombia, ages 7-18, became the first children to earn a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for their work in bringing an end to civil war in their nation. For more information, see http://www.turnerlearning.com.
* Monday--"The Red Cross" (TLC 10-11 p.m.) See how the American Red Cross conducts relief efforts at more than 70 disaster scenes, including interviews with volunteers from across the country.
* Tuesday--"John Paul II: The Millennial Pope" (KCET 9-11 p.m.) A look at the charismatic, self-confident pontiff credited with strengthening the Catholic Church and making economic inequality a moral issue.
* Wednesday--"Charles Atlas: Modern-Day Hercules" (A&E 5-6 p.m., repeats 9-10 p.m.) There really was a 97-pound weakling, who at the age of 15 developed an exercise program to transform himself into "The World's Most Perfectly Developed Man." Promoted by a comic strip showing a beach bully kicking sand in the face of a scrawny kid and getting knocked down after the kid built up his muscles, Atlas' exercises became the most popular in the world.
Compiled by Richard Kahlenberg in consultation with Crystal J. Gips, dean of the School of Education, College of St. Mary, Albany, N.Y. Columns at http://www.latimes.com/tvsmarts.