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What Clinton didn't say

February 11, 1997

This past Monday President Clinton came to Annapolis to give a major address on educational policy. The president said many things, but though his speech was 53 minutes long, he didn't say everything. Allow us to fill in some of the blanks.

Who can disagree when he says every 8-year-old should be able to read, that every 12-year-old should be able to surf the Internet and that every 18 year-old should be able to go to college? Not us, but can we really fault schools for every child's reading problem? Isn't there a need to tell parents they're not doing their jobs unless they read with their children until it becomes a habit?

We have no doubt that the Internet connection - wiring classrooms and the like - will be made by companies who want to sell future consumers their doorway to cyberspace. College is another story. Clinton said that every 18-year-old "should be able" to go, but what he didn't say is that college isn't for everyone. Some students who learn the electrical or the plumbing trade, for example, might be happier and more productive than some college graduates.

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That brings us to the proposal by Gov. Parris Glendening and others, that the state subsidize college tuition for students with "B" averages or better. Clinton said there is "no better expenditure of our money." The reality is that money is tight and Maryland cannot up Baltimore school aid by a quarter of a billion dollars, build new sports stadiums and everything else Glendening has proposed without some new revenue sources. Such as?

Finally, the president endorsed Maryland's agreement to participate in a new program to set national reading and math standards with - you guessed it - a new set of tests. This continued emphasis on testing as a solution strikes us as wrong-headed, in the same way that it is wrong-headed to pay a lot of attention to what comes out of a car's tailpipe and ignore what goes into the gas tank. In this case, parents' energy drives student performance. Helping them do a better job better will yield more than any battery of new tests.

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