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The Learning Center has been much more to our community than "just" a
daycare center. I put just in quotes because a good daycare center is
important on its own.
The Learning Center has been what the name implies. All types of
learning were welcome there. I have seen classes for children announced
in drama and dance, as well as exercise classes for the young and
not-so-young as well. These are very good things for children to learn,
and the children of our community both need and deserve a place like
this, where they can learn these types of things.
A rich, full life includes knowledge of more than just the academics
taught in the classroom. For instance, reading a play by Shakespeare in
an English Literature class is fine, but acting in the same play or
seeing it performed live makes it much more meaningful. Between the
Creative Dramatics class at the Learning Center and the Center's housing
of the Windmill Square Playhouse, some Pecos children have had their
first exposure to live theater.
Granted, the plays performed at the Learning Center are not
Broadway-style productions or Theater-in-the-Round, but they are
experiences in live theater. How can a child find out that they have a
love of performance if they don't get a chance to try?
Dance classes, which have also been taught at the Learning Center, are
a great experience for youngsters. If a child has a talent for this sort
of thing, a young start is a valuable asset later on in life.
There were more plans for the Learrning Center too, and I hope they
will get the chance to become reality.
When I talked to Oscar Saenz (Anchor West Plant Manager and president
of the board of directors of the Pecos Learning Center Inc.) about the
closure, he told me that one plan the directors had hoped to implement
was to use the Learning Center as a homework help center.
The plan was simple, really - have older kids volunteer to help the
younger ones with their homework after school at the center. That's a
great idea. It would give kids something to do after school if their
parents weren't home yet, and it would be a chance for struggling
students to get the help they need. Sometimes, it is easier for a child
to understand things when another youngster explains them.
I sincerely hope that the Learning Center will be able to secure the
funding it needs to reopen. That is what it came down to - money. The
Center lost a grant from the schools when the state cut funding for the
pregnant parents program, and daycare tuition just didn't cover all the
expenses of operating the facility.
Editor's Note: Cara Alligood is an Enterprise writer and advertising administrator.
It's been 50 years since President Truman dispatched Secretary of State
George Marshall to Europe to rebuild that continent for the remainder
the century. Recently, another U.S. President, Bill Clinton, decIared
the unequivocal success of the Marshall Plan, and called for a new
U.S.-European relationship. Central to his plan is the expansion of the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Simply adding new members to NATO hardly seems like bold leadership. We
must assess the very nature of the alliance, based upon the realities of
1997, not 1947. That will involve questions of grand strategy, including
a new mission for NATO that is based on the threats we expect to face
into the next century. But even before meeting that formidable
challenge, the alliance must perform some serious housekeeping.
I question whether the alliance is ready for expansion, and my
skepticism has nothing to do with particular concerns about any of the
prospective new members. Rather, it seems the alliance is avoiding the
really tough work of changing the NATO charter to account for broader
To date, the NATO expansion debate has centered on how to address
Russia's concerns, and the recent signing of the Founding Act ends that
debate. Regardless of the relative merits of the Founding Act itself,
though, I am concerned that we have spent so much time figuring out how
to avoid a clash with Russia over NATO expansion that we are ignoring
the likelihood of conflicts within the alliance itself once expansion
takes place. We have the experience of Greece and Turkey to caution us
that members with historic border-related tensions can create a
difficult problem of alliance management. Free of the bonds of Cold War
defense against a hostile enemy, allies might one day be adversaries as
te result of such tensions.
At the heart of the NATO relationship is Article Five of the North
Atlantic Treaty, which states quite simply that the members "agree that
an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America
shall be considered an attack against them all." On the Clinton
Administration's present course, over the next few years, we will offer
NATO membership to countries with border disputes that are long-standing
and serious. To do so without modifying the North Atlantic Treaty
accordingly would be a disservice to the American people, who will pay
the price and bear the burden of expanding America's security
Specifically, the alliance should agree to a process for resolving
disputes between members. These conflicts are inevitable as membership
grows. Fixing the problem now will keep the United States from being
drawn into regional conflicts in Europe that will sap our own strength
and weaken the American security umbrella and the alliance's guarantee
of mutual self-defense.
To do so, I propose the alliance establish a dispute resolution
process, and write that process into the NATO Treaty. We might even
model our efforts on the mechanisms for dispute resolution and binding
arbitration that we use in American labor law. In that process,
disputants select arbitrators who collectively select a third arbitrator
to air views on both sides and propose a resoluton that i5 binding on
the parties. In the case of NATO, countries in a dispute would each
select an ally, the two of which would select a third disinterested ally
to negotiate a settlement and, if necessary, impose a binding solution
on each of the disputants.
We would encourage a hasty resolution to the dispute by also suspending
disputants from Article Five mutual defense protections until they reach
a resolution and ratify it. This will offer member states an incentive
to work agreements out quickly, before they reach the binding
arbitration stage. Also, this process would retain alliance integrity by
keeping dispute resolution within NATO.
It will not be easy to amend the North Atlantic Treaty, which is
substantively unchallenged in the nearly half-century since it was
written. Adding new members has been relatively easy by comparison;
we've done so on three occasions in the same amount of time. (This is
not unlike our own history. Recall that we've added some three dozen new
states to the American union since the Constitution was ratified, but
have only found it necessary to amend the Constitution itself 27 times!)
Another factor to consider - particularly by those countries wishing to
join - is whether NATO membership is even in the best interests of the
emerging east European democracies. In assessing their own security
threats, are the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland more vulnerable to
invasion from Russia or economic instability? If their governments
believe that strengthening their economies is a higher priority, then
are the billions of dollars a year in defense spending required to meet
NATO force standards really appropriate? Wouldn't such funds be better
spent on infrastructure such as roads and water treatment systems, or on
investments in manufacturing and agriculture, than to buy tanks and
modernize their armies?
With the end of the Cold War, it's time for a new NATO charter, not
just new NATO members. I for one accept the President's challenge to
conjure up the spirit of the Marshall Plan and boldly face the Europe of
the 21 st Century.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Kay Bailey Hutchison represents Texas in the U.S. Senate. Her Capitol Comment column is a regular report to her constituents.
First there was this headline, ``Capital Gains Tax Cut Emerging as
Jewel in Both Parties' Crown.'' Immediately below that was another:
``GOP Medicare Fix Sidesteps Partisanship of Previous Efforts.''
See the common thread? Democrats and Republicans are working together
to accomplish things that they both agree need to be done. For years,
that was far from the norm; political parties were more interested in
beating up on each other than in finding common ground for the good of
the country. ...
But something very positive happened in the elections of 1996 - neither
party won a mandate. So, we've been spared the triumphalism of the first
days of the Clinton administration, and the hubris of the ``Contract
with America.'' Politicians have started realizing that if they want to
do anything, they'll have to work together. ...
The State, Columbia, S.C.
Mac McKinnon, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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