WHITTLE, O.J. TIRADES HIDE NEA BLEMISHES

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Doesn't the National Education Assn. have anything better to do than marshal its forces against the demons of the ad world?

Our public schools are on the verge of collapse, and the NEA is wasting its resources by trying to get Rush Limbaugh out of the orange juice business and TV commercials out of the schools.

The NEA is joining the call for a boycott of Florida orange juice because Rush Limbaugh is advertising the stuff on his daily radio program. How this dastardly act affects the NEA isn't immediately clear. "When a government agency uses tax dollars to promote a program that is damaging to a people, that crosses the line," an NEA spokesman told this family newspaper.

To which I reply: When a non-profit union uses its members' dues to promote an agenda that has nothing to do with its basic charter, that crosses the line.

At least the Florida orange juice people are getting a good return on their money: Rush is moving carload lots of o.j. (or is it the Simpson trial that's giving people an irresistible urge to quench their thirst with his namesake beverage?). What the NEA will get out of the boycott is confirmation that it is wandering off intoareas that don't concern it.

The teachers' union also is spending a lot of time and energy trying to pressure advertisers on Chris Whittle's Channel One in-school TV programming venture. Never mind that the Whittle organization has supplied schools with much-needed electronic hardware for free, and never mind that most of the schools are glad to receive the programming.

Now the NEA is working to convince state and local pension funds to sell off stock in companies that advertise on Channel One, no matter how good a return the funds are getting. With all the problems our schools face-an alarming dropout rate, falling SAT scores, drugs, gangs roaming the halls, etc.-does the NEA really believe that TV commercials will pollute the minds of its students with subversive ideas? Do their charges need to be protected from such crass and depraved exploiters of children as Procter & Gamble, McDonald's, PepsiCo and Reebok? Who knows what lasting damage will be done to kids' psyches urged to brush their teeth with Crest or even wolf down a Big Mac or a bag of Tostitos?

Nero fiddles while Rome burns. Our public schools are the disgrace of America, and the NEA issues a call to arms against foes lurking around every corner. On the side it resists all efforts to make its member teachers more productive.

But maybe NEA's diversionary tactics make sense. If you were failing at your main job wouldn't you try to draw attention away from your failures? It's no wonder that more and more parents are taking the education of their children into their own hands.

I've said before-and will say again and again-a basic education is paramount in allowing children to enter the mainstream of our society and our economy. If this is so, why is the NEA so concerned about what we drink for breakfast?

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