The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
JIM LEHRER: Good evening. In the headlines this Friday, President Reagan expressed hope for his budget and his Nicaragua plans. Democrats criticized him and Senate Republicans for Social Security. And the unemployment rate stayed the same. Robin?
ROBERT MacNEIL: After the news summary, tonight's NewsHour has four focus sections. Our political analysts examine President Reagan's big decisions this week on defense, Social Security and Nicaragua. In Massachusetts we look behind the unemployment figures. In North Carolina we see parents disturbed by what their children are being taught in school, and we have a debate about how much say parents should have. And we have a documentary look at the slipping fortunes of Apple computers. News Summary
LEHRER: The biggest lump left today by the big budget deal was Social Security. President Reagan and the Republican leadership of the Senate agreed yesterday to cap Social Security cost-of-living increases. Democrats and others immediately criticized the proposal, and it was a central question from reporters this morning as the President left for a 10-day California vacation.
SAM DONALDSON, ABC White House Correspondent: Mr. President, the Democrats say that you have reneged on your promise not to touch Social Security.
Pres. RONALD REAGAN: Well, how is adding a 2 raise each year cutting it?
REPORTER: Do you think the Democrats are going to beat up on you on that Social Security?
Pres. REAGAN: Well, if they do, they'll be lying in their teeth, as they did in 1982.
LEHRER: But the critics continued their vigorous criticism of the Social Security idea and President Reagan for supporting it. The toughest words came at a news conference called by the Save Our Security Coalition.
Rep. CLAUDE PEPPER, (D) Florida: I hate to see the President of our country so conduct himself that his words do not assure probity or credibility in the minds of the people of this country.
ARTHUR FLEMING, Save Our Security Coalition: Personally I feel that we are dealing with broken promises because there is built into the Social Security system a contract between the government and those who are beneficiaries. And when that contract is broken it undermines confidence in the Social Security system and confidence in our government.
LEHRER: On the overall deficit reduction plan talk was more muted as Congress joined the President in leaving Washington for the Easter recess, although Republican Senator Pete Domenici, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, did have this to say about the Democratic opposition.
Sen. PETE DOMENICI, (R) New Mexico, Chairman, Budget Committee: They've been sitting by saying we can't do it. Some of them have said, "We'll help when the President's on board." He's on board now. The other part of that is, what is their plan? How are they going to get the deficit down $50- or $60 billion -- over three years cut it in half, which everybody kind of agrees is right? What are they going to do? Now, if they start taking things out, then what's going to be left? We're just anxiously waiting to see how they'll do it.
MacNEIL: There was also more negative congressional reaction today to President Reagan's call for a Nicaraguan ceasefire while asking Congress to approve humanitarian aid to the anti-government forces, or contras. Democratic Congressman Edward Markey of Massachusetts, who'll go to Nicaragua next week, said, "Behind the thin veneer of peace is the reality of aggression." Democrat Stephen Solarz of New York, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, "I don't think it's any more palatable than the previous proposals by the administration." Republican Senator David Durenberger of Minnesota, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, "As constructive as this step is, it doesn't go far enough." As he left the White House for California, the President was asked about Nicaragua's rejection of his plan.
Pres. REAGAN: We believe that the people of Nicaragua will be highly supportive of this, because they still want the revolution that they -- the goals that they fought for in the revolution.
REPORTER: But the people in Nicaragua, sir, don't have much of a say in the government, according to you.
Pres. REAGAN: I know. That's one of the things we're complaining about. We want them to have more of a say.
REPORTER: Well, is there any way you can get Ortega and the Nicaraguan government to sit down, given what they've said today?
Pres. REAGAN: Well, I think when they see the Contadora process and their neighbors, the neighboring countries all in support of this, and the contras are the ones who are willing to lay down their arms and simply ask for the right to negotiate and discuss what kind of a government this should be --
MacNEIL: Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Miguel D'Escoto said today Mr. Reagan was saying to Nicaragua, "You drop dead or else I'll kill you. If we do not cry uncle by June 1st, he will continue the war against our people." In our lead focus section after this news summary we look at the President's handling of Nicaragua and the budget.
LEHRER: The monthly U.S. unemployment figures were out today and they showed no change. The rate was 7.3 in March, said the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the same as it was in February. Four hundred and thirty thousand new jobs were created in the economy during the month, but 8.4 million Americans remain jobless. We have a focus report later on an unusual jobless to jobs programs in Massachusetts.
Also on the economic front today, Ohio Governor Richard Celeste named Chemical Bank of New York as the potential buyer for the closed Home State Savings Bank. Celeste said Chemical had submitted a letter of intent to purchase the 33-branch institution, whose failure set off the closing of 39 other Ohio savings and loans and a huge crisis two weeks ago. Celeste said there were no other prospective buyers.
In Washington late today the Defense Department said it will stop all payments to General Dynamics until it recovers $154-million worth of alleged excess claims by the company. General Dynamics collects an estimated $700 million per month in defense contracts.
MacNEIL: A state of emergency was declared all across South Carolina and in one county in North Carolina today because of forest fires. In all, fires driven by high winds attacked some 30,000 acres of forest and farmland in seven southeastern states. In Valdese, North Carolina, hundreds of families evacuated their homes. In nearby Mineral Springs, 50 buildings and homes were lost to the fires. In the mountains between Morgantown and Valdese, firefighters dropped 3,000 gallons of fire retardant from an Air Force cargo plane in an effort to stem the blaze. In western North Carolina some 6,000 acres of woodlands were ablaze, and the fires were spread by winds of more than 30 miles an hour.
LEHRER: In overseas news Syria may send more troops to Lebanon. A Beirut newspaper says Syria has given Lebanese President Amin Gemayel a semi-ultimatum: stop the Moslem-Christian militia battles in Sidon, or Syrian troops will do the stopping. Religious militias have been fighting for the past eight days in that southern Lebanese city. So far, 48 people have been killed, another 194 wounded.
In the Persian Gulf Iraq said it fired missiles at three Iranian towns today. The Iraqis said they were retaliating for an Iranian missile attack against Baghdad this morning. An Iranian official said the attack on Baghdad was in retaliation for earlier Iraqi attacks on Iranian cities.
MacNEIL: From Ethiopia today there were pleas from the government for a speed-up in food aid and warnings that food supplies were running out. But from Washington where were complaints from an AID official that the Ethiopian government is using trucks to resettle people rather than deliver food to its starving citizens. Because of the truck shogtage, tons of emergency food supplies are piling up in the port of Assad, U.S. officials said. President Reagan, before leaving for California, signed legislation providing a billion dollars of emergency aid for Africa. The amount was more than the President asked Congress to provide, and Mr. Reagan said today the U.S. would not spend more money than could be efficiently used. He said that abuse of food aid was unacceptable.
Elsewhere in Africa there were reports from Khartoum that the Sudan cabinet is thinking of rolling back some price hikes and austerity measures that had triggered a general strike against the government of Gaafar al-Nimeiri. Mr. Nimeiri, who has been visiting the United States, today met with Secretary of State Shultzand the United States reiterated its support for his regime.
LEHRER: And finally in the news of the day, a coincidence of a calendar made today a special day for two of the world's major religions. For Jews it was the beginning of Passover, which celebrates the Hebrews' liberation from slavery in Egypt 3,000 years ago. For Christians it was Good Friday, the day Jesus Christ was crucified. In Jerusalem today, Christians from around the world walked the route taken by Jesus that day after he was condemned to die on the cross. Here is a report from Mark Dyson of Visnews.
MARK DYSON, Visnews [voice-over]: Every now and then the procession would stop to mark places mentioned in the Bible, and there the pilgrims would pray before moving off again. Many of them had been waiting all their lives to come to Jerusalem and to make this commemorative walk down the Via Dolorosa to Calvary, scene of the crucifixion. Some carried huge wooden crosses along the route. Others gripped Bibles and fingered rosaries. Tourist officials in Jerusalem say they expect 50,000 Christians to visit the city in the next two weeks. Reagan's Big Week
MacNEIL: With the budget compromise and Nicaragua competing for headlines today, our first focus section looks at presidential performance on these issues which have dominated Washington attention for weeks. In the budget compromise the President suddenly gave in on defense spending and Social Security rates, while Republican Senators accepted sweeping domestic cuts. On Nicaragua, faced with stiff congressional resistance to more aid to the contras, Mr. Reagan suddenly changed the context of the argument. In both cases, a lot of political hurdles remain, and tonight we examine what Mr. Reagan has achieved with his new flexibility. Jim?
LEHRER: Our examiners are three; the first two being David Gergen, former communications director at the Reagan White House, now a syndicated columnist and analyst, and William Schneider, a political scientist and public opinion expert at the American Enterprise Institute. David Gergen, has President Reagan in one day pulled off two miraculous things again?
DAVID GERGEN: Well, I'm not sure they're miraculous, but I do think this has been one of the most significant weeks of his second term. The week started, Jim, with hopes for a major budget package drooping and his contra plan dead in the water on Capitol Hill. Now I think he has a fighting chance on both issues. He has struck a major bargain with the Senate leaders on the budget. It's a far larger, far bigger package than anyone thought possible a few weeks ago. It means that the country may actually get a handle on some of these deficits before this is all over. On Nicaragua of course he's put a velvet glove around the iron fist, and I think that that's improved prospects in the Senate at least; he still has a hard, very, very hard road in the Congress. And I think that he may be able to bring additional pressure in Central America from the Contadora nations and the other neighbors of Nicaragua to perhaps go along with this.
LEHRER: Let's take these one at a time. Were you as stunned as others were that he just, after weeks of being adamant on defense cuts, then just very quietly said, "Sure, what do you want, guys?"
Mr. GERGEN: No, I don't think -- I think everyone knew at some point he was going to compromise on defense. I was surprised by the Social Security, but on defense it was just a matter of timing. And I think he saw that the issue was slipping away from him. Everyone thought a few weeks ago that he could probably get a 3 compromise out of the entire Congress. As he refused to compromise, the numbers started going down and people said suddenly the best he's going to get is a freeze, an absolute freeze. In fact, people in the House and the Democrats are talking about something less then that. So I think he saw that he had to give in now to the Senate in order to preserve his position and I think he did what he needed to do.
LEHRER: Bill Schneider, what's your reaction to the way he gave on defense?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Well, I think he had to. The President's position on defense was undermining the entire budget process. He was demonstrating that he was unreasonable. People were wondering, the public was wondering, the Congress was wondering, "How can he put through all these domestic budget cuts if he's unwilling to cut the program that affects him, that he really cares about?" and that was defense. Well, now he's given way on that but he was beginning to look very unreasonable, month after month saying he wasn't going to give up anything. And why should the public or the Congress give up anything that's important to them? On the Nicaragua issue I think it's interesting. Back during the MX vote people said that the Geneva negotiations were a bargaining chip to get the MX passed. Well, now we've got the same kind of process. It worked for MX; maybe it'll work for the Nicaraguan aid. The President wants $14 million, and a lot of people suspect that maybe these negotiations, this ceasefire, is a way of saying, "Well, now we've got a ceasefire in place, we're going to have negotiations; we've got to have that $14 million in aid to keep the negotiation process going along, because we don't want to undercut those freedom fighters down there in Nicaragua."
LEHRER: But thus far there doesn't seem to be any indication that there is going to be a ceasefire and any negotiations. Is he clean if that doesn't happen, David Gergen?
Mr. GERGEN: That's the risk that they know they're running, and of course --
LEHRER: Now, who is "they"?
Mr. GERGEN: That the administration -- that Bud MacFarland, who really was the author of this plan, and Secretary Shultz and the President and others, know that that's one risk. And of course the ambassador from Managua here said yesterday that they're going to reject this plan, just as they did earlier when the contras proposed it. Their hope, though, is that other nations in the region -- and they of course are in touch with those nations, the administration is -- will be favorably disposed. There's even talk, believe it or not, that Cuba might be disposed to supporting this, and that Managua might be persuaded to reverse its position prior to the vote. If they don't, I think it is going to make the vote tougher to secure for the President.
LEHRER: Do you think in any way, Bill Schneider, that he's put any extra pressure on Congress? Does this help him at all trying to get that $14 million?
Mr. SCHNEIDER: Oh, I think it helps. I think a lot of people see through it. But I think that if there is any indication of any progress then people aren't going to want to mess up the negotiating process. So I think it's that going to help. And, frankly, that $14 million, I think, was going down the tubes. He just wasn't going to get it through this Congress.
LEHRER: It may be a thin thread, but at least it's still barely alive. Is that what you're saying?
Mr. SCHNEIDER: That's right. That's right.
Mr. GERGEN: Their vote here in the House this week was they were down by 40 votes.
LEHRER: Forty votes!
Mr. GERGEN: Forty votes on the contras.
LEHRER: So he had nothing to lose by this.
Mr. GERGEN: Absolutely not. He's still, I think, down in the House, and he's probably down in the Senate, but he's got a better chance in the Senate.
Mr. SCHNEIDER: I like to think it was like the selection of Schweiker as his running mate in 1976. He was going down; he wasn't going to win that nomination, but it certainly shook things up at the last minute. He didn't get it; he came pretty close. I think he's going to come pretty close this time. Maybe he'll get it.
LEHRER: All right. Okay, let's go now to the specific situation on Social Security and first to the familiar face and mind of Norman Ornstein, a political scientist who specializes on Congress. He has written extensively on Social Security and Social Security reform. Norm, first explain what the President and the Republicans agreed to yesterday, in language that I can understand, which means very simple.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN: Okay. It's complicated. It's certainly more complicated than what the Senate Republicans in the Budget Committee had originally passed through, which was simply to freeze the cost-of-living adjustments in Social Security for one year. Now they're going to allow --
LEHRER: Now, the way the Social Security adjustments work now, whatever the cost of living is, the Social Security benefits automatically go up.
Mr. ORNSTEIN: Exactly so. Every year.
LEHRER: Every year. Okay.
Mr. ORNSTEIN: And it's been that way for about the last 10, where there's an automatic adjustment year by year according to the consumer price index. It's a major item in the budget when you're talking about nearly $200 billion now that goes into Social Security with about 36 million recipients. Now, what they've agreed to is something that will allow some cost-of-living adjustment, 2 automatically next year and for the next three years if inflation is 2 or more; however, if it's more than 2 , up to 4 inflation, they'll still only get the 2 . And after that, if inflation goes up by more than 4 , they'll get whatever the cost of living is less 2 .
LEHRER: So if it's 6 they'll get 4 .
Mr. ORNSTEIN: They'll get four.
LEHRER: If it's 10 , they'll get 8 .
Mr. ORNSTEIN: Exactly.
LEHRER: All right. In terms of real dollars to Social Security beneficiaries, how much money is involved here?
Mr. ORNSTEIN: This is going to be the subject of some dispute for a little while.
LEHRER: Well, you can resolve it now, Norm.
Mr. ORNSTEIN: That's right. We can basically say the average Social Security recipient, a good round figure, gets about $500 a month. In other words, about $6,000 a year. So if you take 2 off the cost-of-living adjustment, you're talking about taking $120 a year away from that average Social Security recipient, or roughly $10 a month or so. Now, over a three-year period, there's obviously some compounding effect, so maybe we're talking $400 to $500. Now, the advocates of keeping Social Security as is, the people we saw earlier, are saying that the dollars are considerably greater than that. They're talking about seven- to $700-$900 in loss over a three-year period, and they're suggesting as well that this is going to cause a colossal problem for the poorest segment of the elderly, that it'll put a million people into the poverty -- below the poverty line by 1990. That's not quite clear, and it depends very much on how you define poverty, but it's clear that this is going to be at least some blow for people who live on the edge.
LEHRER: Is it the most substantial part of this budget-cutting planwhen you cut everything else aside?
Mr. ORNSTEIN: No, it's not. Clearly the defense changes, compared to what we had in the past, mean a lot more in dollar terms. This amounts to about $21 billion, or slightly less than that, over a three-year period. Now, that's certainly a lot of money. The savings in the first year are relatively small. It's only really about $6 billion -- or, excuse me, about $3 billion in the first year, rising to about $7 billion in 1987 fiscal year and then to $11 billion. The big problem here, Jim, is simply that whatever change you make in Social Security, whether it's freezing the whole program, allowing some adjustments, is going to be met with a negative reaction by people out there who are on Social Security or those who are strong advocates of the program.
LEHRER: What are the politics of this from your point of view, Bill Schneider?
Mr. SCHNEIDER: It's trouble, I think. The President has a more reasonable position now because he's willing to cut defense, so he's saying that he's -- not cut defense, but allow a smaller increase in defense. So he's doing his part, and what he's doing, of course, in Social Security is allowing a smaller cost-of-living increase than otherwise would have been the case. I think there's going to be a lot of resistance. Remember, we don't have a budget. We don't have a Senate budget or a House budget. We just have a Republican budget right now. There's a lot of political process, political debate. Congressmen age going home for the Easter recess now. I think they're going to hear a lot from their constituents about this budget, and Social Security in particular.
LEHRER: What about the charge that the Democrats are already making today that this amounts to a reneging on President Reagan's promise not to fool with Social Security benefits? I nally got the question out, David.
Mr. GERGEN: The White House, the President obviously has the view that he didn't make this full promise. I think that there are an awful lot of people who had the impression with Social Security that he wasn't going to touch Social Security. On the other hand, I think the overwhelming feeling in the country is that something has to be done about these deficits, and contrary to Norm, I think there are a lot of elderly people who will in fact go along with this so long as they feel it's shared sacrifice, that everyone is paying equally. By conceding on defense I think that helps a great deal. I think if they can do something to make sure that the people on the lower end of the spectrum are not hurt -- as Norm suggested, there might be a number who would be -- then I think the politics of it are not going to cut that heavily against Reagan.
LEHRER: Norm, do you think that the people who are interested in Social Security are going to just stand aside, based on that argument: "Everybody's getting it, so why not you folks take it too?"
Mr. ORNSTEIN: If everybody were getting it, I would agree with Dave. I think the way that you can get into Social Security is by coming up with a plan that has an umbrella of protection of fairness. The problem with the budget as it now stands is that, while this is an overall freeze of sorts that keeps the budget levels roughly at what they were or what they are in the existing year, we also see a number of other programs that are eliminated and defense, after all, is going to go up by 3 in real terms. So the attack that the elderly and their advocates will make is that this is not fair, that they, that the small-business people with the Small Business Administration scheduled to be axed completely, the farmers with the Rural Electrification Administration scheduled to go and so on are taking the major brunt of this burden, while others, including corporations who are getting away without paying taxes, and defense are getting off with more than they would otherwise get. And once you lose the umbrella of fairness by freezing everything totally including Social Security, it makes it much tougher on the Senate floor when this will come up for a series of individual votes.
LEHRER: All right. Norm Ornstein, Dave Gergen, Bill Schneider, thank you all three very much. Robin?
MacNEIL: Still to come on the NewsHour tonight, three focus sections. In Masschusetts, a look behind the static unemployment statistics. In North Carolina and Washington, can parents tell schools what to teach their children? And a documentary look at the troubles of Apple computers. Massachusetts: Help Wanted
LEHRER: Today was unemployment rate day, and the result was no change. It was 7.3 in February, and it was 7.3 again in March. But for the real people who make up those statistics there are always changes. For some they are for the good; for others, not so good at all. A look at a slice of that life now in a focus report from two Massachusetts towns with very different employment problems. The reporter is Meg Vaillancourt of public station WGBH, Boston.
MEG VAILLANCOURT, WGBH [voice-over]: This is Framingham, Massachusetts, a suburban community of 65,000 people with a booming high-tech economy and an unemployment rate of under 2 , a rate so low economists call it full employment. Every day, 4,000 Framingham jobs go begging.
MICHELLE KUNAH, Framingham Chamber of Commerce: We even have situations where employers are offering bounties for their employees to bring friends, relatives, you name it, to come to work for the company. And that has set up certainly a competitive atmosphere within the company. And I have visions of two people in the same family tearing a cousin apart or something to try to get him to come to work.
VAILLANCOURT [voice-over]: And this, 75 miles away, is Athol. Once a prosperous mill town, Athol is now a casualty of economic changes that have eroded its industrial base and left more than 9 of its workforce unemployed. Here is it jobs and not workers that are in short supply.
Gov. MICHAEL DUKAKIS, (D) Massachusetts: Athol is more typical of older mill cities and towns which had a base of manufacturing in more traditional industries and which has been hit very hard by the trade deficit, by the decline of traditional industry, by all of the things that we've seen, particularly in the so-called Rust Belt in the Midwest.
VAILLANCOURT: Seeing a chance to solve both communities' problems at once, a coalition of state and business leaders introduced a program last fall to put Athol's unemployed in Framingham's jobs. The crucial link was busing.
Ms. KUNAH: We actually have conducted job fairs in communities that are located as much as an hour and a half away and found people who are willing to work here, and we -- the employer puts them on a bus, pays for the bus, gives them a differential in wage, pays them higher than the minimum wage, to bring them into the job.
VAILLANCOURT [voice-over]: Jennifer Nelson was one of those recruited.
JENNIFER NELSON, recruited Athol resident: I get up at 5 o'clock, meet the bus at 6. It's not too bad, the bus ride in. We listen to the radio or talk or sleep. I was just making minimum at my other job, and here I have extra money to do other things that you normally didn't have, like I'll be joining the spa and I'll be taking dance classes. And I wasn't able to do that at the pay I was making before.
VAILLANCOURT [voice-over]: Like Jennifer, most of the 200 Athol residents bused into Framingham every day are young, unskilled and working for minimum wage. Most of these jobs are in the service sector, like flipping hamburgers at Wendy's. On the bright side, Framingham's minimum wage is considerably above the national standard.
VICKI MASQUEL, Wendy's: It's really getting to the point that it's almost ridiculous the, competitiveness.
VAILLANCOURT [voice-over]: Vicki Masquel manages personnel for Wendy's.
Ms. MASQUEL: You can see one company saying, now hiring for a certain wage, and come back maybe a day later and you'll see the next door down now hiring at a higher wage. So that's been something. It really has a ripple effect. If this one's hiring at $3.75, then two doors down they go to $4, then three doors down they go to $4.25.
VAILLANCOURT [voice-over]: For those who must start at the bottom, the busing program is a way into the workforce. Among older, more skilled workers it generates less enthusiasm.
ALBERT ROACH, unemployed worker: The bus program is all right for the younger people. It keeps them out of trouble. It gives them a little money. And I also have a son myself in it, and he loves it. But me, it ain't good for me because I got a family and it wouldn't pay me. In fact, I'd lose money.
RAY HOLDEN, unemployed worker: It just isn't my line. I've always worked in a shop pretty much, and this is what I'm looking for rather than the food line. Everybody eats, but I'm not interested in working on a food line that they eat.
VAILLANCOURT [voice-over]: A year ago Albert Roach and Ray Hoblen were making $8 an hour at the Union Butterfield Tool manufacturing Plant, Athol's largest employer. Then the plant shut down, leaving Roach, Holden and 400 others unemployed and largely unemployable. Today many are enrolled in retraining programs and looking for another chance, but few are optimistic.
Mr. ROACH: There ain't much hope at all. Unless they open that factory because high-tech ain't for us. They can't train us guys. We're too set in our own ways.
VAILLANCOURT [voice-over]: But even if new industry does come to Athol, there's some disagreement among experts and policymakers as to the impact of these new jobs.
LESTER THUROW, economist: Relative to many parts of the country, the jobs that are getting generated are low-income jobs. The jobs in the high-tech industries in Boston pay a lot less money than the machine-tool or steel or automobile industries pay in the Middle West, and so there's lots of jobs but they aren't high-income jobs relative to some standards.
Gov. DUKAKIS: Far be it for me to disagree with my good friend Lester Thurow, but I don't think that's what's happening at all. What's happening is that we are getting lots and lots of good jobs and, compared to what we used to have around here 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, very good jobs at all ranges in the wage scale and at all levels of skill or semi-skilled kinds of occupations.
VAILLANCOURT [voice-over]: Whatever the long-term prospects, Athol's jobless today have few choices. Those willing to work for minimum wage are priced out of housing in boom towns like Framingham and so are stuck with four hours a day of commuting. Those used to making more money lack the high-tech training to re-enter the workforce at anything like the level they left it. The picture could brighten considerably with a plant relocation or two, but for now workers and jobs are 75 miles apart, and busing is about the only way to connect them.
Mr. THUROW: If you think about low-wage jobs in areas where there is only high-wage housing, the only way you solve that problem is by busing people in. Of course, that's what Manhattan does.
Ms. MASQUEL: I don't know how long you can ask people to get up at 6 o'clock in the morning and drive two hours, and I don't know how long the economy will bear that. We will do it as long as they want to do it and as long as we have the need, which I'm sure will be for awhile.
LEHRER: There are 2,000 people in Massachusetts now involved in those employment busing programs, and more are planned for the summer. Again, the reporter was Meg Vaillancourt of WGBH, Boston. Parents in the Classroom
MacNEIL: Next tonight we focus on the growing controversy over control of what's taught in public schools. A coalition of political conservatives and parent groups are pushing a form of parents' rights. Their goal is to limit their children's exposure to such controversial topics as drugs, sex, suicide and divorce. Those are topics many educators say need to be addressed, but which conservatives consider inappropriate for the classroom. Battles between concerned parents and school boards are now underway in virtually every state. That's been spurred on by a nationwide mail campaign by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly telling parents they have not only a moral obligation but a legal right to confront their school boards. The law frequently cited is the so-called Hatch Amendment passed by Congress seven years ago but only implemented, quietly, by the Department of Education last fall. But in school board and PTA meetings across the country the debate is less about legalities and more about morality, and whether parents should be able to protect their children from what they consider immoral subjects. Correspondent June Massell has a report from one community where the moral debate is at full pitch.
PARENT: As a mother and a Christian I feel that to deny my children a complete education of the miraculous human body would be a great injustice.
PARENT: I am persuaded, sirs, that this type of teaching is causing students to lose their virtue and venereal disease is running wild.
JUNE MASSELL [voice-over]: The issue before these parents and their school board is sex education in the classroom. It is a particularly sensitive subject here in Asheville, North Carolina, in the middle of the Bible Belt.
[on camera] The controversy began here last October at Enka High School just outside of Asheville. When the school offered a week of sex education within a regular biology class, some of the parents objected, and some went so far as to remove their children from the class.
[voice-over] Among those parents were Hershel and Dianne Anderson. They removed their son Robbie from the class and sat in themselves instead.
DIANNE ANDERSON: The school should be a place of education, not of teaching morals -- about -- their morals, being sexually permissive. When my son goes to school I want him to learn about the science of a tree or of an animal or how he grew up, how he developed. I don't want him to be pushed and forced into being sexually promiscuous.
HERSHEL ANDERSON: I feel there is a strong breakdown in the home, and that our homes are going to be weakened. They're are weakened today because of abnormal teachings from our school officials.
MASSELL [voice-over]: The Andersons were further upset bythe fact that the class was taught by a representative of a local abortion clinic.
Mr. ANDERSON: And they represented, you know, abortion as a means of birth control, and I feel this is wrong. This is strictly wrong to represent abortion as a means of birth control.
MASSELL [voice-over]: Joan Castelloe is in charge of health education for the county health department, and she has been a leader of those in favor of sex education.
[interviewing] What do you say to parents who say that having sex education in the schools is actually promoting more teenage pregnancy and abortion?
JOAN CASTELLOE, Buncombe County Health Department: Well, June, I think that's a real myth. I think that we have found, at least from most studies, that children who are knowledgeable are more likely to delay, and that's really what we're trying to get across to children, to delay or postpone their sexual involvement.
MASSELL [voice-over]: Because of the controversy, Enka High School suspended its sex education course. The school is awaiting a decision by the school board before resuming instruction. Last night the board held a meeting to hear both sides. The auditorium was packed with nearly 200 people -- parents, teachers, students and members of the clergy.
Rev. RALPH SEXTON: I was five years old when Lenin, the leader of the communist revolution, died. Lenin said before he died, do three things and we'll destroy America. He said, "Destroy faith in God, destroy the home life of America, prostitute the womanhood, and America will fall." But I never thought I'd ever live to see the day in our public school classrooms that I would hear -- see what I did on that day in October last fall. No mention of God, no mention of the home, no mention of the sacredness of marriage, no mention of husband and wife, just your "sex partner." I think it's a shame and a disgrace, and I plead with God and this school board, let's do something about it.
Father CHERRY: I believe that sex education is vitally important. We need more education, not less. I'm the father of two children, one 12 and one 15, both of whom have benefitted greatly from the kind of sex education program that is represented by this group here.
Dr. BILL THURMAN: It is not that we should be so concerned about children who are afraid of the dark; rather, we should be concerned about men who are afraid of the light. Education can give us some light. Please, let's don't darken it.
MASSELL [voice-over]: While the meeting focused on morality, legal issues such as the Hatch Amendment never came up. But some parents have been talking about using the Hatch Amendment as a legal ground for keeping their children out of sex education classes and maybe even keeping sex education out of the classroom.
MacNEIL: To continue the discussion of parental involvement in the schools and what the Hatch Amendment does and doesn't permit, we have Barbara Parker, education policy director for the lobbying group, People for the American Way. It opposes the efforts of conservatives to change school curriculums. Also with us, Malcolm Lawrence, head of the Maryland Coalition of Concerned Parents, which is urging parents to get more involved in the schools. First of all, Mr. Lawrence, what are you trying to accomplish? Give us some specific examples of the kind of wrongs you and your fellow parents want to put right.
MALCOLM LAWRENCE: We actually are not attempting to put any wrongs right. What we have discovered over the past several years is that largely through federal funding lots of non-academic techniques and materials are coming into the classroom -- materials and techniques that parents throughout the country have no knowledge of. And we're the ones who started the distribution of the letter, giving parents the primary right to say what shall be taught to their children in the classroom. Eagle Forum was the first one to distribute it --
MacNEIL: That's Mrs. Schlafly's group.
Mr. LAWRENCE: Mrs. Schlafly's group. It was also picked up immediately by a radio network called Contact America, which is stationed on Capitol Hill. It was picked up by hundreds of organizations, and we estimate that some three-quarter of a million letters through our contacts alone are circulating out there, and many of them are being lodged with local boards of education.
MacNEIL: What are the subjects covered in these teaching materials which you think parents should have the right to approve or disapprove?
Mr. LAWRENCE: The biggest package is what we call psychological and psychiatric testing and treatment in the classroom. We also get into areas of values clarification, sensitivity training, drug abuse education, which, in many instances, is not drug abuse education, but it's values clarification under another name. Children aren't taught the dangers of the drugs and laws against them; they're taught psychosocial techniques, and it's in all introspective kind of approach to education, which parents are now learning through this letter are taking place in classrooms throughout the United States. So the two points of the letter is to educate the population about what is now in public schools and the second is to ask them to use this as an instrument to tell their local school board that they want permission. They're not saying take these things out; they're not saying ban anything. They're saying, "If you're going to get into these areas, please let us know and put this in our child's file."
MacNEIL: Ms. Parker, what do you object to in that?
BARBARA PARKER: Well, first of all, the assumption that parents are not already involved in the public schools. There is not a public school in this country that doesn't want, beg for and need parental involvement. There are already PTAs, parent advisory groups. Parents are already involved in selecting materials, in reviewing materials before they're used in the classroom, and when problems come up there are procedures within the school system for handling those problems. We do not need federal intrusion in local school matters in order to handle those problems. Another big problem with the Hatch Amendment is that it fails -- with the new regulations it fails to define psychological and psychiatric testing. According to Mr. Lawrence and Mrs. Schlafly, psychological and psychiatric testing can be everything from group discussion on a wide variety of topics ranging from sex education to drug education to teenage suicide prevention -- a panoply of materials.
MacNEIL: Let's just clarify. The Hatch Amendment passed seven years ago said that if children were going to be psychologically tested or evaluated the parents were entitled to give their permission. Is that correct?
Ms. PARKER: Absolutely.
MacNEIL: And now that has been interpreted by regulations issued by the Department of Education last fall, correct?
Ms. PARKER: That's right.
MacNEIL: Right. nd those covered the list of things that you just enumerated?
Ms. PARKER: Well, the regulations actually only cover seven topics -- political affiliations, religious affiliations -- but what has happened now with the way they are being interpreted by groups likeMr. Lawrence's and Mrs. Schlafly's is that they are calling psychological and psychiatric testing everything from the keeping of journals in the classroom, which has always been a part of English classes, to nutrition journals kept in health classes to autobiographical assignments. Those, supposedly, are psychological intrusions.
MacNEIL: Is that correct, Mr. Lawrence? Are you including things like that in your interpretation of what is psychological testing?
Mr. LAWRENCE: Well, in the first place, let me say that religious affiliation is not in the Hatch Amendment. In the second place, there are many techniques and materials used in classrooms that, while not named in the Hatch Amendment or regulations, indeed trigger the seven basic things that should be signed off on by parents before they're taught in the classroom. But the Hatch Amendment and the regulations pertain only to programs administered and funded by the U.S. Department of Education.
MacNEIL: Ms. Parker, to go back to the example we just saw from North Carolina, is it your complaint that Mr. Lawrence and Ms. Schlafly and their organizations are using the Hatch Amendment regulations to stop schools from teaching things like sex education, drug abuse education and so on?
Ms. PARKER: I think that that would be their ultimate goal. They have not succeeded yet. But what they have succeeded in doing with the new regulations and with their letters that they've circulated all over the country is to effectively intimidate teachers and administrators, and they are truly fearful today of introducing almost any controversial topic in the classroom for simple discussion.
MacNEIL: Mr. Lawrence?
Mr. LAWRENCE: I think it's significant that when the Hatch regulations were finalized on November 12, 1984, that all 27 education lobby groups came out opposed to it, and they exaggerated the extent to which this would apply in classrooms. The National Education Association said, "Any teacher in any classroom who asks any questions is liable to be investigated by Big Brother federal government and have all federal funds removed from that school district. These are out-and-out lies, and they know it. They're trying -- they're paranoic about it. They're trying to scare teachers into fighting the Hatch Amendment.
MacNEIL: Are you paranoid, Ms. Parker?
Ms. PARKER: No, I don't think so. I think if you look at the list of topics and consider what actually goes on in a classroom, what these regulations are doing, and I think what Mr. Lawrence and Mrs. Schlafly, again, are trying to do and what they're succeeding in doing, is destroying any sponaneity. If a teacher has to go out and call a parent before they can have a discussion about an issue like divorce -- I mean, that's on the list; death and dying, teenage suicide, these are big problems in today's society and they've got to be discussed in the classroom before learning can take place.
MacNEIL: Mr. Lawrence, let's take a specific concrete example; say, a discussion of suicide. What kind of practical control do you think parents have a right to exercise, that they need to literally give approval before their child is admitted to such a discussion if it's something they disapprove of or approve of?
Mr. LAWRENCE: Well, death education is like drug and sex education; the schools think they have to take on the job of solving all the social ills.
MacNEIL: No, but do you think parents --
Mr. LAWRENCE: Death education -- I think the parents have a right to see what is contained in the curriculum before it's given to the children, because there are some charges around the country that death education is actually leading to suicide among students.
MacNEIL: With what purpose? To stop the teacher from teaching that, or to withdraw their child from it if they don't approve of the material?
Mr. LAWRENCE: Well, there are federally funded programs that tell children to pretend they're dead and they come back and then they ask them if that way of dying was better than suicide, what they think is the least painful way of dying? They're having a premature curiosity with these things, and the children should be learning to read and write. There are 27 million functional illiterates, and we fail to see why parents cannot have the right over deciding which non-academic areas are taught in the classroom. They're not only parents; they're taxpayers as well.
MacNEIL: Ms. Parker?
Ms. PARKER: We're not talking specifically here about what is being taught. We're talking about what's being discussed. And I think that that is the big issue. The other thing that I want to go back to, what you just said. Parents have always had the right and have indeed been encouraged to go in and look at classroom materials, materials that are used in the classroom. When there are problems wiohin a school system there are systems and procedures set up within the school system to handle those. You don't need to go outside the school system to an outside -- what I would call an outside pressure group that's clearly anti-public education in order to see solutions. There are already channels set up.
MacNEIL: What do you mean, these groups are anti-public education?
Ms. PARKER: Well, they have a history -- I mean, I cannot -- I don't know of one example of Phyllis Schlafly ever saying anything good about the public schools or working with the public schools to make them better, nor Mr. Lawrence's group. He was head of a group in Maryland back in 1972 that charged the schools in Maryland of teaching the religion of secular humanism. That went to the Maryland State Board of Education, 21 days in testimony, 1,600 pages of testimony.
Mr. LAWRENCE: Eighteen hundred.
Ms. PARKER: It cost the taxpayers of Maryland $200,000. And they concluded there was no such thing as the religion of secular humanism being taught.
MacNEIL: Mr. Lawrence?
Mr. LAWRENCE: Well, the Parents Who Care case of some years back did prove that there were some 43 violations of state bylaws, and Montgomery County regulations, and the Montgomery County school system was admonished and asked to clean up its act.
MacNEIL: But what about Ms. --
Mr. LAWRENCE: The secular humanism thing, I'm not getting into that with this latest letter, nor am I getting into that debate tonight.
MacNEIL: Well, what about the charge that you're anti-public education?
Mr. LAWRENCE: I have nine children and they all graduated in the public schools, and I have seven grandchildren and some of them are in the public schools. I have worked for 15 -- I have run a school, a private school, when I was in the diplomatic service of the United States. I believe in public schools; I don't think they're going to shut down. Eighty-five percent of the children in this country go to public schools, and I think that the parents have every right to know what's going in those schools and whether it's contributing to reading, to writing, arithmetic, chronological history, chemistry, physics, instead of some of this non-academic --
MacNEIL: Well, thank you, Mr. Lawrence and Ms. Parker, for joining us, and we'll watch how this progresses in the schools.
Mr. LAWRENCE: Thank you. Losing Its Shine?
LEHRER: Finally tonight we focus on an apple -- Apple, the computer, not the fruit. The once high-flying computer industry is having its troubles. IBM just quit making its PC Jr. home computer; Wang Laboratories is closing its factories for two weeks and cutting executive salaries; and Apple, the most high-flying of them all, closed three of its plants for a week and a fourth does the same Monday. Correspondent Elizabeth Brackett reports.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT [voice-over]: Apple co-founder Stephen Jobs has a favorite story about Apple's impact on the country. He told it this year at the annual shareholders' meeting.
STEPHEN JOBS, Chairman, Apple Computers: I received a letter from a 6 -year-old boy a few months ago which to me completely sums up what we've accomplished in the last few years. And it reads: "Dear Mr. Jobs: I was doing a crossword puzzle and a clue was "as American as apple 666.' I thought the answer was "computer,' but my Mom said it was "pie.' "
BRACKETT [voice-over]: Apple's success has been built on the Apple II, the easy-to-use computer that took over the home market. but millions of dollars have been lost in the home market over the last several years, and now Apple president John Sculley says that home market no longer exists.
JOHN SCULLEY, President, Apple Computers: I believe there is no such thing as a home computer market. All the sales that we have for computers that end up in the home are there for two reasons; either because of education -- people want the same computer at home that their kids are using in school, and Apple has the strongest position in education, or for business reasons. They're either running a small business in their home or they want to be able to bring work home from the office and continue working on it at home.
BRACKETT [voice-over]: Instead, Sculley and Jobs say Apple's future is with personal computers for the business market. To do that, Apple must attack a formidable competitor, IBM.
[on camera] Last year Apple launched its attack against IBM in the business world with the introduction amidst great hoopla of this, the Macintosh computer. This year Apple's big new product is this, a $50 cable and a box that links one Macintosh with another.
[voice-over] So on the darkened stage at the annual shareholders' meeting Apple introduced the new cable with as much hype as possible, turning the connecting cable, named AppleTalk, into a glittering, fluorescent extension cord.
Mr. JOBS: Stringing together a modest-sized AppleTalk network is much easier, for example, than connecting a VCR to your TV set. If our vision and concepts are right, today will be the beginning of an alternative to IBM's vision of the office, an alternative that starts with people rather than mainframes. Thank you very much.
BRACKETT [voice-over]: But to break into that business market, Apple must convince people like Cynthia Apalakis to give up a long-standing relationship with IBM. Apalakis is a data processing supervisor for Safeway Food Stores in the San Francisco area. Ninety percent of Safeway's operations are handled by computers. Apalakis is not sure the Macintosh could handle the job.
[interviewing] Would you consider a Macintosh in the future from Apple?
CYNTHIA APALAKIS, Safeway Stores, Inc.: Would I consider one? Maybe if they changed their looks a little bit and it looked a little more like a real computer should. I don't know how a real computer should look, but they just don't look real to me. They look like toys.
Mr. SCULLEY: The fact is that our products are not toys and anyone who is knowledgeable about these, industry consultants, users, realize that our products are far more sophisticated in technology than anything that is available from any other competitor. And so the best way of convincing people that our products are sophisticated and not toys is to let them get their hands on them.
BRACKETT [voice-over]: Philip Gordon supervises the buying of computers for the big Crocker National Bank in California. He has had lots of opportunity to get his hands on a Macintosh.
PHILIP GORDON, Crocker National Bank: I certainly want one. I haven't come across anybody in the IBM-PC world, for instance, who isn't fascinated by the Macintosh and who doesn't necessarily want to have one. But I have to be convinced that it is -- I won't go so far as to say a toy. I have to be convinced that it is a useful business device.
BRACKETT [voice-over]: The problem, says Gordon, is that Apple is not yet viewed as the kind of organization that sells to the corporate community.
Mr. GORDON: They don't have an awful lot of experience in dealing with the necessities of a corporate environment, and that is something that's not easy to come by, necessarily. We have a lot of people who already have that experience. So it's going to be hard to give consideration to a company that really is a newcomer, in essence, to the corporate environment.
BRACKETT [voice-over]: Not only is Apple a newcomer to the business world, it still suffers from what some business people see as a rather flaky, laid-back California image. Stephen Jobs' sometimes prickly attitude with both the business establishment and the press doesn't help. Jobs likes to deal with both on his own terms and on his own time.
Mr. JOBS: Can you guys catch me later?
BRACKETT [voice-over]: Still, it is Jobs that provides the main inspiration and philosophical direction for Apple. Jobs, who insists the creative energy at Apple is as high now as it was back in the days of the garage.
Mr. JOBS: What Apple is, is it's an environment where we can attract the best and the brightest people to come together and sort of have a common vision about how we can change the world, and it's very rare that we can actually put something back into the world.
BRACKETT [voice-over]: But nationwide sales of the Macintosh and the Apple II have been slow since the first of the year. Despite a small upturn in February, many dealers are stuck with big inventories both in the warehouse and on their shelves. And that's not all. The company has been hit with a wave of top-level resignations. Co-founder Steven Wozniak, the electronic genius who put the first Apple together in his garage, quit last month. Wozniak says the company is putting too much emphasis on the Macintosh computer at the expense of the computer that built the company, the Apple II.
STEVEN WOZNIAK, Apple Computers: I would generally complain about how much the Apple II was not getting anywheres near the attention, particularly designing future versions of the Apple II that it should have over the years, and I think it's harmed Apple tremendously.
BRACKETT [voice-over]: Wozniak pocketed $70 million from his sale of his Apple stock. He will start over with a five-person company and a new product. But he says he would have stayed at Apple if the company had kept its old commitment to individual entrepreneurship.
Mr. WOZNIAK: If there was some project that I could really just work on a lot independently and be assured that it was just going to go very quickly through a lot of the red tape, cut the red tape, yes, but once I've got to fit myself into using all the design systems at Apple and the procedures and the approvals from certain committees and this and that, it's too large. It's really the dullards that drive it.
BRACKETT [voice-over]: Apple says Wozniak's departure will have little effect on the day-to-day operation of the company, but industry analysts are nervous about Apple's prospects as they go after IBM in the business market with the Macintosh. Several analysts have cut their projections for second-quarter Apple profits by as much as 10, and Apple stock continues to be volatile. Industry analyst Ulric Weil says Apple has also been hurt by a lack of software for the Macintosh; though the new business programs and new products have been developed, many have not yet made it to the marketplace.
ULRIC WEIL, industry analyst: Very quickly the word gets around there isn't enough software to get true productivity out of Macintosh, particularly in an office environment. Within 90 days we will know whether Macintosh has a real good chance to crack the office world, and we will also get a better handle on whether home computer demand will resurface in the Apple II arena.
BRACKETT: So these are the critical days for Apple?
Mr. WEIL: Yes.
BRACKETT [voice-over]: Most in the business community are pulling for Apple. Most do not want to see the innovation and creativity that Apple brings to the computer market lost. But pulling for Apple and buying an Apple product are not necessarily one and the same, and Apple is girding itself for a tough fight to stay healthy.
MacNEIL: Now a look at today's headlines again. President Reagan said he is optimistic about the fate of his budget and Nicaragua initiatives, but Democrats assailed the accord on Social Security crafted by the White House and Senate Republicans. The jobless rate stayed the same in March, and the Pentagon has frozen payments to General Dynamics.
We close tonight with our weekly look back at newspaper cartoonists from around the nation. Among the events attracting their attention was the U.S. trade flap with Japan. Poking Fun
JAPANESE OFFICIAL, giving karate chop to U.S. trade barriers [Benson cartoon, The Arizona Republic]: Your turn, honorable Sam San. [Uncle Sam defeated in front of huge granite barriers]
CAR BOMB BUYER, at a Shiite used car lot [Wright cartoon, Miami News]: Are they reliable? How about a demonstration? [one car explodes] I've come to the right place!
SOVIET OFFICIAL, playing game of "gossip" [J. Morin cartoon, The Miami Herald]: Official Soviet explanation for shooting of U.S. Army major was mistaking him for Korean airliner.
DIRTY OLD MAN, in alleyway accosting child [Wright cartoon]: Psssst! Little girl! Look! Big red rats in space with lasers and they're going to burn out your cute little eyeballs!
LITTLE GIRL: Boy! Weinberger is pulling out all the stops!
LEPRECHAUN, at the end of the rainbow [Marlette cartoon, The Charlotte Observer]: No, it's better than a pot of gold. It's a defense contract!
CAVE MAN, praying [Bill Day cartoon, Detroit Free Press]: O God, as the first scientist, please, tell me the origin of life.
CAVE MAN: Is it the sun?
GOD: I said, clay.
CAVE MAN: The moon?
GOD: Clay, I said! Clay!
MEDIEVAL WIZARD: Metal?
GOD: CLAY, you idiot!
1930s SCIENTIST: The sea?
GOD: It's hopeless.
1985 SCIENTIST: I think I've got it! CLAY!
MacNEIL: Good night, Jim.
LEHRER: Good night, Robin. Have a nice holiday weekend. We'll see you on Monday night. I'm Jim Lehrer; thank you and good night.
- The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
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- This episode's headline: News Summary; Reagan's Big Week; Massachusetts: Help Wanted; Parents in the Classroom; Losing Its Shine?; Poking Fun. The guests include In Washington: DAVID GERGEN, Political Analyst; WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, Political Analyst; NORMAN ORNSTEIN, Political Scientist; MALCOLM LAWRENCE, Maryland Coalition of; Concerned Parents; BARBARA PARKER, People For the American Way; Reports from NewsHour Correspondents: MARK DYSON (Visnews), Jerusalem; MEG VAILLANCOURT (WGBH), in Framingham, Massachusetts; JUNE MASSELL, in North Carolina; ELIZABETH BRACKETT, in San Francisco. Byline: In New York: ROBERT MacNEIL, Executive Editor; In Washington: JIM LEHRER, Associate Editor
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