Monday, August 9, 1999

Adoption of standards is
just the first step

Bullet The issue: The Board of Education has adopted a new set of learning standards.

Bullet Our view: The extent to which teachers implement the standards is crucial to their success.

THE Board of Education's approval of new education standards is a step forward, because the standards provide clearer statements of what students are expected to learn. The old standards were criticized as unclear and difficult to implement.

However, the crucial question is whether teachers will take the standards seriously and work hard to ensure that students fulfill them. If teachers aren't motivated, their students aren't likely to be.

In a large school system such as Hawaii's, motivation is harder to cultivate from the top. This may make it all the more important that standards be framed as effectively as possible.

The next step is to develop a curriculum consistent with the standards and a system of accountability to measure student performance. Superintendent Paul LeMahieu said pilot assessment tests focused on mathematics, reading and writing should be ready by next spring.

The work, he said, is "about raising our expectations, and now we have to live up to it."

The old standards weren't so old. They were adopted in 1994. There were 1,554 of them, probably too many.

The new standards are fewer -- just 139, with benchmarks for each grade. Perhaps that will help them more useful.

But they will be no more effective than the teachers make them.

Internees’ memorial

Bullet The issue: A park in memory of the Japanese Americans interned during World War II is being created in Washington, D.C.

Bullet Our view: Americans must not forget the shameful treatment of AJAs.

IN an overdue gesture, the government is about to create a memorial to the Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II. The National Capital Planning Commission has approved a memorial park in Washington, D.C. The park, near the Capitol, will also commemorate the AJAs who served in the U.S. armed forces.

The park will have a 15-foot statue of two winged cranes struggling through barbed wire. Also planned are a row of Japanese cherry trees, an 18-foot bell like those in Japanese temples and a shallow pool.

A granite wall, containing names of war veterans, will enclose the central plaza. The wall is also expected to display statements from post-World War II presidents repudiating the internment program.

Washington's Fine Arts Commission must still approve a final model of the statue and the inscriptions along the wall. Action could come at a meeting next month. Ground-breaking for the three-quarter-acre park is scheduled for October, with completion expected a year later.

It is important that Americans remember the shameful treatment of AJAs during the war and the patriotism that led thousands to fight for this country despite the internment.

As a memorial to the victims and the veterans, the park will be a significant addition to Washington's monuments.

Latin America

Bullet The issue: The Clinton administration is accused of neglecting problems in Latin America.

Bullet Our view: The United States can't afford to ignore disturbing developments in these countries.

THE Clinton administration is accused of ignoring disturbing trends in Latin America. Critics cite weakness of democratic systems in many countries, accelerating urban crime, persistent corruption, drug trafficking, low rates of economic growth, wide gaps between rich and poor and high rates of extreme poverty.

Secretaries of state routinely attend meetings of NATO and of Asia-Pacific foreign ministers each year. But no secretary of state has attended the annual meeting of Western Hemisphere foreign ministers in a decade.

Ten years ago, with the end of the Cold War and democracies in place in most countries, Latin America seemed poised for takeoff into an era of prosperity and stability. But now the trends are largely negative.

In Colombia, civil war and drug trafficking are tearing the country apart. In neighboring Venezuela, widespread disgust with 40 years of multiparty democracy has led to the emergence of a populist leader, President Hugo Chavez, who might assume dictatorial powers. Violent crime is soaring in Mexico and at least three states are controlled by drug traffickers.

Mark Falcoff, a Latin American specialist at the American Enterprise Institute, says, "All the Andean countries are falling apart."

A series of economic shocks, many of them imported from other regions, has kept down economic growth rates over the decade. Some 150 million Latin Americans live in extreme poverty.

President Clinton sent troops to Haiti in 1994 to return ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to office. Clinton also won Congress' approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

But in recent years the capital's focus has been elsewhere. Sen. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Western Hemisphere subcommittee, says: "I can't remember another time in our recent history when we have paid less attention to developments in our own hemisphere."

That neglect could prove costly if Latin America erupts.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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