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Letter Exchange Surprises, Educates

WHEN it comes to high school antics, Anchorage, Alaska, and Szczecin, Poland, aren't so far apart. Students at West Anchorage High School had Jell-O-tossing and pie-eating contests last spring and danced at the Junior Prom to Bette Midler's ``Wind Beneath My Wings.'' Polish students at Szczecin's Lyceum Ogolneksztalcace enjoy rock concerts, had a belly-dancing contest, and took advantage of the first day of spring by dressing up ``as strangely as we can.'' Differences are sharper in more important areas. In a recent exchange of letters under the American Federation of Teachers' Education for Democracy Project, Anchorage senior Suzanne Cedeno enclosed the student handbook and a copy of parliamentary procedures. ``We've found [following these] the only way for everyone in our class of 47 to be heard without being disruptive,'' she noted.

In reply the Polish students wrote: ``We were astonished at how clearly defined things are in your school. Do you think it is essential to democratic relations to have such explicitly given rights and requirements?''

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In response to Alaskan questions, the Polish students noted that until recently most students have not taken their education seriously. However, they said, that pattern is likely to change now that teachers decide what topics to teach, and take student preferences into account.

The AFT pilot project is aimed at helping American teachers whose students are having difficulty understanding the significance of recent events in Eastern Europe and will be expanded to other classrooms this fall.

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