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Three Catholic families are suing a New York school district for violation of religious and privacy rights. The plaintiffs object to what they call the district's promotion of "satanism, New Age spirituality, and drug and suicide counseling." They say their children are "making pledges to the earth" on Earth Day, playing "magic" card games, making models of Aztec gods, and using "worry dolls" under their pillows to ward off nightmares, all in violation of the First Amendment and in lieu of genuine academic instruction. The parents also allege that "stress-reduction exercises" led by a yogi promote eastern religions while excluding any expressions of Christianity.

Idaho teachers unions lose bid to overturn 1997 paycheck protection law. The law requires unions to obtain members' consent annually before deducting political contributions from their paychecks. In his Feb. 1999 ruling, state district Judge Daniel Eismann said the law safeguards "an important governmental interest of contributors not being required to contribute to political causes they do not favor."

More movies in class? Blockbuster Inc. (home video rental) has joined the American Film Institute (AFI) and the controversial Channel One marketing company "to enhance curriculum in America's classrooms with the use of movies." Virtually every educational organization in the nation opposes Channel One's forced commercials on captive student audiences. The films in the new program, chosen by the AFI and teachers from Channel One Network schools, will "focus on tolerance and acceptance."

Congressional hearings are expected to open on Channel One, headed by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). Sen. Shelby has become a national spokesman for a coalition to remove Channel One from America's classrooms that, in addition to Obligation Inc. (which spearheaded the movement), includes Eagle Forum, the Family Research Council, the Association of Black Psychologists, Ralph Nader, TV-Free America, and Family First.

inside this issue . . .

A darkly "comic" novel entitled Holes by Louis Satcher has won the 1999 Newbery Medal for children's literature. The hero is wrongly convicted of a crime, and serves time at a strange juvenile detention facility in the barren Texas drylands. The award is presented annually by the American Library Association.

Century-old "Elsie Dinsmore" children's books fill spiritual void. Publishers say this strong, pious, 19th-century heroine, created by author Martha Finley in a series of 28 books, is making a comeback, along with other spiritually-sound older works. Publishers attribute the resurgence of these "character-building" stories to the current glut of children's books that focus on drug abuse, alcoholism, suicide, family violence, and the occult.

The City University of New York (CUNY) is phasing out remedial education courses, and colleges in other states are considering similar moves. CUNY's Board of Regents voted last year to phase out remediation at its four-year colleges over the next three years, and to limit it at community colleges to one year. In 1998, 68% of CUNY's four-year college freshmen and 87% of first-time community college freshmen required reading, writing or math remediation, based on failure to pass 11th grade reading and writing tests and 10th grade math tests.

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Education Reporter is published monthly by Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund with editorial offices at 7800 Bonhomme Ave., St. Louis, MO 63105, (314) 721-1213. The views expressed in this newsletter are those of the persons quoted and should not be attributed to Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund. Annual subscription $25. Back issues available at $2.

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